John Clayton, NFL Insider, Hall of Famer, ESPN stalwart, and the man appropriately nicknamed “The Professor”, passed away on Friday, March 18, 2022, at the age of 67.
No precise cause of death has been released though it was stated he suffered from a brief illness.
His death came as a shock to the NFL community.
He had a Saturday morning ESPN Seattle radio show and was on Twitter dissecting the Russell Wilson trade and analyzing the aftermath of it a little over a week before his death.
Wilson paid homage to Clayton with a brief but heartfelt Tweet.
We will all miss your words and brilliance @JohnClaytonNFL #RIPJohnClayton
— Russell Wilson (@DangeRussWilson) March 19, 2022
Clayton was both astute in the game’s nuances and a likable personality on camera.
Chris Mortensen of ESPN narrated this tribute to Clayton when news of his death became public.
From one Hall-of-Famer to another, @mortreport’s touching tribute to John Clayton: pic.twitter.com/zrO7zkAONY
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 19, 2022
Here is how the NFL world reacted to the shocking news.
A Kind And Caring Person
Sean Salisbury, who was on ESPN and worked closely with Clayton, shared his thoughts.
Awesome friend of the show and a long time dear friend to .@SeanUnfiltered , a kind human being!
He will be missed .
May he Rest In Peace #JohnClayton #welostagreatonetoday pic.twitter.com/npffz44WTW
— The Sean Salisbury Show (@SSalisburyShow) March 19, 2022
More than one colleague or former colleague described Clayton as a great mentor and someone always willing to help the younger reporters, in particular, who were just starting out.
He was generous with his time and talents and was beloved for his sense of humor and zest for life.
John Clayton was the kindest person. This was my first sideline job for the NFL. He found me, gave me advice, gave me some information for the broadcast and as always, wanted to talk about Braddock, PA. Thank you for everything John, I am so grateful for your friendship. RIP ♥️ pic.twitter.com/i28uOSexT0
— Joy Taylor (@JoyTaylorTalks) March 19, 2022
My friend of 22 years John Clayton died. He was one of those colleagues who was not only always eager to help you, but went above and beyond to help. He took his work seriously, with all his files and spreadsheets, but not himself. RIP to a gentleman and Hall of Famer.
— Seth Wickersham (@SethWickersham) March 19, 2022
All of us were so fortunate to know John Clayton, a giant in his field whose enormous success was rooted in kindness and a genuine love for the game. RIP Professor, thank you so much for all the insight, and all the laughs. pic.twitter.com/IUMVUvQlq8
— Mike Greenberg (@Espngreeny) March 19, 2022
Many of Clayton’s former ESPN colleagues posted the video of their favorite SportsCenter commercial that showed the other side of Clayton who was fun-loving and up for anything.
John Clayton, a first-class NFL insider and our beloved longtime ESPN colleague, died today.
He also starred in the greatest This Is SportsCenter commercial of all time.
— Don Van Natta Jr. (@DVNJr) March 19, 2022
Commissioner Goodell’s Statement About Clayton
Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner, issued a statement.
“John Clayton, one of the first “Insiders,” helped bring fans closer to the game they loved. For five decades, he covered the league with endless energy and professionalism. He earned my tremendous respect and admiration as a journalist but more importantly as a wonderful person, particularly as it relates to the love, care, and devotion to his wife Pat. We will miss John and send our deepest condolences to Pat and his sister Amy.”