WASHINGTON — John Clayton, one of the country's leading NFL insiders, died Friday after a brief illness, his family said. Clayton, who had a 20-plus-year career at ESPN and covered the NFL for five decades, was 67.
"The Seahawks are heartbroken to learn of the passing of John Clayton after a battle with a brief illness at the age of 67," the team said in a statement Friday evening.
ESPN's Chris Mortenson said that Clayton passed away at a Seattle-area hospital, with his wife, Pat, and his sister, Amy, at his side.
Nicknamed "The Professor," Clayton spent 23 years covering the Steelers, Seahawks and NFL as a beat writer and was hired by ESPN in 1995 as an NFL Insider.
When he was let go from ESPN in 2017, Clayton described his relationship with the company as the second best of his life. "My marriage to my wife Pat is obviously No. 1," Clayton said at the time.
More recently, he was the host of "The John Clayton Weekends" show on Seattle Sports 710 and spent five seasons as a sideline reporter for the Seattle Seahawks Radio Network.
"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. We will miss John and send our deepest condolences to Pat and his sister Amy."
Clayton was presented with the Dick McCann Memorial Award in 2007, inducting him into the writer's wing of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Casual sports fans may know Clayton best from his "This is SportsCenter" commercial in which he wraps up an interview, lets his hair down, cranks up his stereo, breaks out his "Slayer" t-shirt and eats Chinese food on his bed, yelling "Hey, mom! I'm done with my segment!"
Former Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson tweeted that "We will all miss your words and brilliance."
TEGNA's Travis Pittman and Val Lick contributed to this report.