Sports Journalist John Clayton Dies After Short Illness at Age 67

John Clayton, former ESPN sports reporter, died Friday afternoon after an unspecified brief illness.

“The Professor” had spent more than 20 years covering the NFL for ESPN. He also served as a Hall of Fame selector.

Clayton died in Washington state, where he hosted The John Clayton Show on Saturday mornings. He was 67.

ESPN’s Chris Mortensen said in a tweet that Clayton passed away “peacefully” at a Seattle area hospital with his wife Pat and sister Amy at his side.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell lauded Clayton for helping “bring fans closer to the game they loved” in a statement released Saturday.

“For five decades, he covered the league with endless energy and professionalism,” said Goodell, 63. “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.”

Clayton kicked off his career as a teenager when he began covering the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1972, shortly before attending Duquesne University, according to ESPN. During his senior year, the Braddock, Penn., native was hired by The Pittsburgh Press.

For 23 years, Clayton covered the Steelers and the Seahawks for both the Press and The Tacoma Tribune. In 1995, he was hired by ESPN as an NFL insider, where he covered the league for over two decades.

During his time with ESPN, Clayton starred in one of the most memorable SportsCenter commercials of all time in which he transforms from polished NFL insider to obsessed Slayer fan just seconds after appearing on the network.

Ten days ago, Clayton was on the air at Seattle Sports 710 AM to break down the massive Russell Wilson trade to the Denver Broncos. In his final tweet, posted March 10, Clayton shared an article of his assessing what comes next for the Seahawks as the team looks to rebuild.

After learning of Clayton’s passing, Wilson, 33, mourned the journalist’s death on Twitter. “We will all miss your words and brilliance @JohnClaytonNFL #RIPJohnClayton,” the quarterback wrote.

Many other past and present NFL figures also paid tribute to Clayton in wake of his death. Former New England Patriots star Julian Edelman was among many Clayton fans to share his iconic SportsCenter commercial while remembering the late broadcaster.