John Clayton, whose list of contacts in the NFL was matched only by his attention to detail and dedication to his craft, died Friday in Washington after a brief illness, his family said.
He was 67.
Clayton, nicknamed “The Professor,” was one of the country’s foremost NFL insiders in a five-decade career that included over 20 years with ESPN. Clayton’s pursuit of news and information was done with such fervor that, as ESPN’s Chris Mortensen said, “Anyone paying attention walked away a little more educated.”
“Long before he became an ESPN icon, John might have been the best news-breaking team beat reporter of his generation, the type who could sit on a story for months and then break it before others had any clue what was going on,” said The Athletic’s Mike Sando, a longtime friend of Clayton’s. “He was that good. On a personal level, John was incredibly generous to me when I succeeded him as the Seahawks beat reporter at the Tacoma News Tribune many years ago. I owe so much to John and will miss him terribly.”