Sports

John Clayton, Veteran N.F.L. Reporter Who Worked at ESPN, Dies at 67

John Clayton, the veteran N.F.L. reporter who was nicknamed the Professor and who was famous for his detailed insights about groups, his soccer evaluation and his concise recreation recaps for ESPN, died on Friday. He was 67.

Mr. Clayton died at Overlake Medical Middle in Bellevue, Wash., mentioned Mike Sando, a senior author for The Athletic who was a pal of Mr. Clayton’s for many years.

Mr. Clayton died “after a battle with a quick sickness,” in response to an announcement from the Seattle Seahawks, who confirmed his loss of life. He labored within the ultimate a part of his profession as a sideline reporter for the workforce’s radio community.

His journalism profession spanned 5 a long time, taking him from the print pages of The Pittsburgh Press, the place he coated the Steelers within the Seventies as a young person, to the studios of ESPN, the place he turned a fixture on the community’s exhibits and an icon of N.F.L. reporting.

Mr. Clayton, who sported rimless glasses and who had a crisp supply, was recognized for his substantive reporting slightly than any flashy, attention-getting type throughout his on-air appearances.

“He introduced an even-handedness and a equity and a voice of purpose to studies at a time when the form of bombastic debate exhibits and fewer substantive, extra entertaining types of programming had been rising in popularity,” Mr. Sando mentioned.

Mr. Clayton typically joked that he “didn’t appear like a TV man,” Mr. Sando mentioned, and advised his mates that, in distinction to his extra dashing tv colleagues, he had saved the identical haircut for greater than 40 years.

Of his look, Mr. Clayton advised The New York Occasions in 2013, “I imply, you might be what you might be.”

All through the a long time, his love for the game and for reporting was apparent, his colleagues mentioned. When he was 17, he received a job with The Pittsburgh Press overlaying the Steelers after they had been on the precipice of changing into a championship dynasty within the Seventies.

He would go into the locker room, interview gamers and coaches after which return house, forgoing the beer that his colleagues would get pleasure from afterward within the press field.

In 1978, he wrote an article in regards to the Steelers’ violating N.F.L. guidelines when their gamers used shoulder pads throughout a minicamp follow — a revelation that he known as Shouldergate and which resulted within the workforce’s shedding a third-round draft choose.

Mr. Clayton left The Press in 1986 for The Information Tribune in Tacoma, Wash., the place he met his spouse, Pat, a sports activities reporter who coated bowling.

At The Information Tribune, he pioneered methods of overlaying the N.F.L., corresponding to sustaining spreadsheets that tracked each participant’s wage after the league launched wage caps in 1994; calling all 32 groups each Friday to search out out who had not attended follow; and contacting each stadium on recreation days to study who the inactive gamers can be.

“John pioneered the granular manner during which the league is roofed at the moment,” Mr. Sando mentioned.

Along with his spouse, Mr. Clayton is survived his sister, Amy.

His obsession with soccer started as a baby. John Clayton was born on Could 11, 1954, in Braddock, Pa., about 10 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. His mom took him to Steelers video games, a pastime that solely intensified his adoration for the sport.

“After all you possibly can see my physique — you possibly can see I didn’t have the power to compete on the soccer discipline,” he told USA Football in 2013. “It simply wasn’t there. However I cherished the sport a lot.”

He graduated from Duquesne College in Pittsburgh in 1976 and launched into his journalism profession.

In 1995, he joined ESPN. There, Mr. Clayton’s reporting prominence grew as he starred in weekly radio exhibits and hosted the “4 Downs” section with Sean Salisbury, a former N.F.L. quarterback.

However his tv stardom was not solidified till his look in what would develop into a memorable “That is ‘SportsCenter’” commercial.

Within the advert for ESPN, an anchor says: “It’s onerous to search out an knowledgeable extra devoted than John Clayton. He’s the consummate professional.”

The scene exhibits Mr. Clayton delivering his evaluation on the air in a go well with jacket and a tie and cuts away to disclose that he’s carrying simply the higher parts of each. He pulls the clothes off to disclose that he’s carrying a sleeveless T-shirt with the title of the thrash metallic band Slayer.

Then, he stands up in his room, which is plastered with posters, and lets free a hidden ponytail.

He jumps on a mattress, yelling: “Hey, mother! I’m executed with my section!” He then eats noodles from a takeout container.

The advert was successful. Mr. Clayton, nonetheless, had been hesitant to do the business, mentioned Dave Pearson, the chief communications officer for the Seattle Seahawks.

Mr. Clayton advised Mr. Pearson and Mr. Sando that he had constructed his repute on critical reporting and didn’t need to tarnish that by showing in a foolish advert.

“Are they going to chortle at me?” Mr. Sando recalled his pal’s asking.

After the advert aired, nonetheless, it gave Mr. Clayton “a brand new degree of superstar that was completely surprising,” and he cherished that, Mr. Sando mentioned.

Mr. Clayton’s profession at ESPN resulted in 2017 when he was one among a number of employees who had been laid off by the community, in response to The Sporting News.

He joined the radio station Seattle Sports activities 710 and labored for 5 seasons as a sideline reporter for the Seattle Seahawks Radio Community. This month, Mr. Clayton was reporting on Russell Wilson’s anticipated commerce to Denver.

When requested by The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2018 how lengthy he deliberate to work, Mr. Clayton replied: “Till they plant me, I assume. I really like these things.”

Ed Bouchette, a former sports activities reporter for The Put up-Gazette who’s now a senior author with The Athletic, mentioned Mr. Clayton had been much more dedicated to his spouse, who has a number of sclerosis. He had an elevator constructed for her of their home and took her to Tremendous Bowl video games that he coated, Mr. Bouchette mentioned.

“She was in a wheelchair, and John would take her round all over the place,” he mentioned. “It was form of touching, I assumed.”

In 2007, he obtained the Bill Nunn Memorial Award, one of many highest honors for soccer reporters.

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