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Longtime NFL reporter John Clayton dies at 67

Hall of Fame journalist John Clayton covered the NFL and its teams for five decades, establishing himself as one of the league's top insiders. (Genna Martin/San Francisco Chronicle via AP)
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Longtime NFL reporter John Clayton died Friday at a Seattle-area hospital following “a battle with a brief illness,” the Seattle Seahawks said in a statement. He was 67.

Clayton began covering the league at the age of 17 and wrote for outlets that included The Washington Post, ESPN and the Tacoma (Wash.) News Tribune. His final piece for The Post published Feb. 26.

​“John Clayton, one of the first ‘Insiders,’ helped bring fans closer to the game they loved,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “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.”

Clayton was one of the sport’s most recognizable reporters to fans and most respected to team and league officials. In 2007 he received the Dick McCann Memorial Award for lifetime contributions to the sport and was honored by Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

“We gave John Clayton a lot of nicknames, but ‘the Professor’ is one a lot of us preferred,” Chris Mortensen, his longtime ESPN colleague, said in an on-air tribute, “because he often reported about all things NFL with such details that anyone paying attention walked away a little more educated.”

Clayton, a native of Braddock, Pa., was one of the country’s preeminent NFL reporters after covering the league for 50 years, most recently contributing to The Washington Post as a football columnist. He started writing about sports in high school and continued through his time at Duquesne University. Clayton began his career covering the Pittsburgh Steelers, and he continued to cover football until last week, when he wrote for Seattle Sports 710 AM about the aftermath of the trade which sent quarterback Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos.

Clayton covered the Steelers, Seahawks and NFL as a beat reporter for the Pittsburgh Press and the News Tribune. In 1990, he became a radio talk show host for Seattle’s KJR Radio and in 1995 he joined ESPN as an NFL analyst.

“John was truly one of a kind, a Hall of Famer in every sense of the word,” Patrick Stiegman, ESPN’s vice president of global digital content, said in a statement. “A trail-blazing, cross-platform voice at ESPN who helped define the role of ‘Insider,’ he was proud to be a gritty newspaper reporter at heart and his connections across the league were unmatched.”

During his time with the network, Clayton’s work appeared across multiple platforms including a weekly “SportsCenter” segment, “Sunday NFL Countdown,” ESPN Radio and ESPN The Magazine. He also made a memorable appearance in one of the network’s commercials, ditching his tie to blast rock music after a segment.

Clayton began writing about the NFL for The Post in 2018, offering his insights and analysis on the games, players and power brokers of the country’s most popular sport. He recently hosted the John Clayton Weekends show on Seattle Sports 710. The nature of his illness was not immediately clear.

Clayton is survived by his wife, Pat, and sister, Amy.