John Clayton, a fixture on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” for years, has died, a collection of his colleagues confirmed on Friday. He was 67.
Throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s, it was hard to turn on SportsCenter or any of ESPN’s NFL shows without seeing Clayton and his familiar background pop up to discuss the biggest football story of the day. He started at the network in 1995 after a long career as a newspaper writer covering the Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks, and stayed there until he was let go in 2017.
Clayton was also a regular presence on radio in Seattle and around the country, hosting The John Clayton Show on Seattle Sports 710 AM until his death.
It didn’t take long for Clayton to establish his bona fides in the industry. While covering the Steelers as a fill-in reporter for the Pittsburgh Press in 1978, he uncovered a rules violation concerning shoulder pads that would eventually cost the Steelers a draft pick. Even after being subjected to the vitriol of Steelers head coach Chuck Noll and fans, he worked his way up to beat writer.
An exemplary career would follow across print, television and radio, eventually earning him the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Dick McCann Memorial Award in 2007.
Both teams Clayton covered as a beat writer released statements in tribute to the reporter.
Clayton’s reliability was reflected in many ways, perhaps most of all in how it was the joke of his famous “This is SportsCenter” commercial. His quality as a person was reflected in the outpouring of tributes from his former ESPN colleagues as soon as news of his death hit: