DU alum, former ESPN reporter Clayton dies

by Luke Henne | sports editor

March 24, 2022

John Clayton, one of the most distinguished alumni of Duquesne University’s media department, died on Friday at the age of 67 in Bellevue, Wash., following a brief illness.

A native of nearby Braddock, Pa., Clayton etched himself into the fabric of the sports media landscape in 1972, when he began covering the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was hired by the Pittsburgh Press in his senior year, eventually graduating from Duquesne in 1976.

Nicknamed “The Professor,” Clayton also occasionally served as an adjunct faculty member at his alma mater.

He eventually became the Steelers beat writer for the Press before taking a position to cover the Seattle Seahawks for The News Tribune in Tacoma, Wash., in 1986.

In a statement, the Steelers described Clayton as “a Pittsburgh media icon.”

By 1995, Clayton was working as a National Football League reporter for ESPN. He remained with the network until May 31, 2017, when he was let go during the company’s widespread layoffs.

Chris Mortensen, a current NFL reporter at ESPN and longtime colleague of Clayton’s, was said, “Anyone paying attention [to Clayton’s work] walked away a little more educated,” according to ESPN senior writer Jeff Legwold.

In the years following his departure from ESPN, he worked for outlets such as The Washington Post, while also spending five seasons as the sideline reporter for the Seahawks’ radio network.

He contributed at Seattle Sports 710 AM as recently as March 8, when he offered commentary on the Seahawks’ decision to trade quarterback Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos.

In 2007, Clayton was presented the Dick McCann Memorial Award (now known as the Bill Nunn Memorial Award) by the Pro Football Writers of America to honor “long and distinguished reporting in the field of pro football.”

In a 2018 interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, when Clayton was asked how long he’d continue his NFL reporting, he said, “Until they plant me, I guess.”

According to Mortensen, Clayton died peacefully with his wife, Pat, and sister, Amy, at his side. He met Pat during his tenure with The News Tribune, where she covered bowling.

On Monday, Seattle Sports 710 AM announced the launch of the John Clayton Memorial Fund, designed to benefit the Multiple Sclerosis Society.

The organization is committed to providing research to fight off a disease that many, including Pat, have battled with.