Clayton Echard: A Look At His Life From Childhood To The Bachelor

Following in the footsteps of Jesse Palmer and Colton Underwood — although thankfully not the latter's stalking ones — Clayton Echard became the latest one-time professional(ish) footballer to pivot into reality TV in 2021 when he was announced as "The Bachelor" for the ABC show's 26th season.

The Eureka, Missouri native, who in 2016 enjoyed training camp practice with the Seattle Seahawks, had previously appeared on the same network's other rose-themed love quest, "The Bachelorette." But it was undoubtedly his stint as leading man that turned Echard into a household name.

So what does the tabloid magazine regular plan to do with his new-found fame? How was he making a living before the lure of televised dating contests became too difficult to resist? And why exactly did he fail to make the grade in the high-pressure sporting environment that is the NFL? Here's a look at the star's eventful life journey so far.

Clayton Echard was a quarter-swallowing, freestyle-rapping *NSYNC fan

Clayton Echard appeared to enjoy a relatively normal childhood with sales engineer dad, Brian Echard, and teacher mom, Kelly Echard, and younger brothers Patrick Echard and Nate Echard in the Missouri city of Eureka. But in a Q&A with Us Weekly ahead of his stint on "The Bachelor," the star acknowledged that at time that he was a strange kid.

For example, Clayton had a habit of accidentally eating things that should definitely not be eaten. As a 6-year-old, he consumed some dog feces believing it was chocolate ("It was obviously disgusting"), while he somehow later managed to swallow a quarter during a cleaning of his collection ("So now I'm worth at least 25 cents").

The former footballer also admitted to crying at an *NSYNC gig after realizing that he was the only young boy in attendance. But perhaps the most embarrassing confession concerned his hip-hop alter-ego Claydoe. And a video which surfaced online proves that he still fancies himself as something of a freestyle rapper!

He's in awe of his parents' marriage

Clayton Echard's mother, Kelly Echard, and father, Brian Echard, walked down the aisle in 1991. More than three decades on, their marriage is still going strong, which their son admits gives him something to aim for when it comes to his own personal life.

In his bio for "The Bachelor," the former footballer revealed that his parents have highlighted how it's achievable to find not only a partner and great love, but a best friend, too. In the trailer for the 26th season of the ABC dating show, Clayton also remarked that he couldn't wait to walk down the aisle and start a family of his own.

The reality TV star has a close relationship with his mom and dad, who also have two other sons, Nate Echard and Patrick Echard. But he still gets dished out some tough love from time to time, as seen in the show's finale. On learning that Clayton had told three different women that he was falling them, Brian said (via the Daily Mail), "They have a right to be upset. You put yourself in this situation. You screwed the pooch, in my opinion."

He has body dysmorphia

Clayton Echard may have the kind of physique that most men would give their right arm for. But "The Bachelor" star doesn't see what everyone else sees when he looks in the mirror, because the former footballer has a condition known as body dysmorphic disorder.

Echard first developed the "extreme fixation on a part of your body that can lead to obsessive behaviors" when he was in seventh grade. He explained to People: "I would catch myself before brushing my teeth, staring at my stomach, pinching my sides, pinching my lower abs, and just feeling the fat there, the loose skin. But then I realized that this was something that was becoming more prevalent day after day, and I would pinch my sides 50, 60 times throughout the day."

The reality TV regular, who didn't tell anyone about this problem for years, admits that his relationships have been affected as a result: "I've been in this state of fear that whoever I'm getting to know is going to end up seeing me for what I really am and thinking like, 'Hey, I don't want to be a part of this. I need someone who's more confident and loves themself for who they are.' And that's been a struggle for me to get to that point." Echard has since joined forces with The Anxiety and Depression Association of America to help raise more awareness of the issue.

If you need help with an eating disorder, or know someone who is, help is available. Visit the National Eating Disorders Association website or contact NEDA's Live Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. You can also receive 24/7 Crisis Support via text (send NEDA to 741-741).

Clayton Echard had a promising football career

Clayton Echard's footballing career began in his junior year where he played as a wide receiver and then a defensive lineman. Although he missed out on a scholarship offer, the star did get selected by the Missouri Tigers as a walk-on member in his first year studying at the University of Missouri.

Echard went on to play in both the defense and offense for all 14 games of the 2014 season and he continued to impress when he settled as the tight end for the following season. It was in this position that the Eureka native was signed by the Seattle Seahawks in 2016. Unfortunately, Echard's time with the NFL was limited to the team's training camp and he was let go later that same year.

Nevertheless, Echard doesn't seem to be particularly bitter about his short-lived Seahawks experience, writing on LinkedIn, "I practiced daily with the team and played in four preseason games. I made it past the first round of cuts, however, I was not able to make the final roster. Nonetheless, it was a unique experience that I was blessed to be a part of."

He was a medical sales rep

Clayton Echard is obviously a man of many talents. As well as enjoying a brief stint with the NFL's Seattle Seahawks as a tight end and becoming a staple of reality TV with gigs on "The Bachelorette" and "The Bachelor," the Eureka, Missouri native also once plied his trade as a medical sales rep.

Indeed, when he wasn't impressing on the football field with the Missouri Tigers, Echard was busy studying for a degree in health science. He also minored in business and Spanish. After graduating from the University of Missouri, he landed a sales associate job at Stryker, a multinational medical tech company whose products include surgical equipment, joint replacement implants, and endoscopic systems.

Echard obviously impressed in the role, as within 18 months, he was promoted to sales representative, where, according to his LinkedIn page, he was "responsible for sustaining consistent growth in both the Joint Reconstructive and Trauma fields in the Columbia, Missouri area." Unsurprisingly, once his season of "The Bachelor" aired, the star decided to quit his position.

The athlete showed his heart on The Bachelorette

Clayton Echard's first brush with reality TV occurred in 2021 when he competed in the 18th season of ABC's second longest-running dating show, "The Bachelorette." In what proved to be a blessing in disguise, the former footballer was eliminated in eighth place after Michelle Young acknowledged she wasn't quite ready to meet his family in the next stage of the competition.

Echard was left devastated at the time, telling the cameras in his exit interview (via The Hollywood Reporter), "I stayed closed off for so long because it takes the right person for me to feel comfortable opening up and Michelle did that. She opened me back up, and now I feel like I want to go back into that shell to protect myself against being hurt."

But it's safe to say that Echard didn't go back into his shell. Within a week of his elimination episode airing, the star was announced as the leading man of the 26th season of "The Bachelor." When asked why he thought he'd been selected for the role by The Hollywood Reporter, Echard responded, "I went through that whole journey just trying to be the best version of myself and win over Michelle's heart and, while it didn't work out, I think the producers saw that and said, 'This is a genuine guy who is here to have a long-last relationship.' I feel like that was probably a lot of the driving force."

Clayton Echard was a bit of a playa

Inevitably, Clayton Echard's romantic history was scrutinized by the media, both traditional and social, once he was announced as the Season 26 lead of "The Bachelor." Well, perhaps "romantic" isn't the right word, as many of the ex-footballer's experiences with women had been strictly of the one-night kind.

Yes, the online world soon became awash with stories of Echard's bed-hopping antics. But rather than deny them, the reality TV star took full ownership, telling Us Weekly, "Listen, here's the thing, I never claimed to be some saint, per se, or celibate for the last six years of my single life. Like, I was single and I enjoyed that singleness. There was a period of my life where, yeah, I wasn't looking for anything serious, and I was just having fun and enjoying that aspect of [dating]. ... It is what it is."

So what inspired Echard to call time on his womanizing days and seek something more meaningful? Well, it turns out he had something of an epiphany on his 28th birthday: "I realized that I was doing the same things. I hadn't changed [in] my dating life, per se, I hadn't changed my work. Everything was kind of stagnant and I felt like I was going through the motions, and I realized, like, 'You need to start making changes to see change.'"

He fell in love with three women on The Bachelor

Before gracing the 26th season of ABC's flagship dating show "The Bachelor," Clayton Echard promised himself not to fall in love with multiple women on the show. As viewers will already know, that's a promise he broke and then some.

Indeed, Echard dropped the "L" bomb in front of eventual winner Susie Evans but also fellow finalists Gabby Windey and Rachel Recchia toward the closing stages of the show. The ex-footballer told Us Weekly podcast "Here for the Right Reasons" that he's learned one valuable lesson from all the drama that followed: Never use absolutes.

Echard also admitted he understood the backlash that followed while appearing on chat show "On with Mario Lopez": "I think it's really tough, especially for the viewers to look at it like how can you fall in love with multiple people? Listen, I said the same thing coming into it so it's a foreign concept and there's a lot of people that want to object to that and say no, there's no way. He definitely didn't fall in love in multiple areas, therefore he must've been lust and that's where you start to have these people creating these judgments. I think yeah, if you don't have the experience in it, you certainly don't understand it. And I don't know if I could ever explain that to somebody that's never been through that."

He entered into a relationship with Susie Evans

Clayton Echard's admissions that he was in love with all three of "The Bachelor" finalists appeared to have backfired when he ended his season in the same relationship status he was in when he started it: Totally and utterly single. Luckily, the woman who the former medical sales rep gave his final rose to later had second thoughts.

While appearing on "After the Final Rose," Echard told viewers (via Us Weekly) that he'd actually spent the previous four months with Susie Evans, who'd decided to get in touch again once filming ended. He remarked, "She just impresses me more and more every day. And she continues to give me reason after reason why following my heart was the best decision I could have ever made, and I could not be more in love with this woman."

Unfortunately, by September 2022, the pair had gone their separate ways for a second time. In a joint Instagram post, they wrote, in part, "Although this last year together has brought us so much joy and so many laughs, there has also been a significant amount of pain. We know no healthy relationship comes without its struggles, but we've realized that we were not prepared for the external forces that hindered our ability to not only heal as individuals but also as a couple. We both are focused on continuing to work on ourselves, so we can be the best version of ourselves."

Clayton Echard became a reality TV villain

Judging by the backlash that he received during his time on the show, Clayton Echard was undoubtedly one of the most unpopular suitors in "The Bachelor" history. In an interview with The Virginian Pilot, the former footballer admitted he understood why he'd become such a reality TV villain.

Echard said, "Watching [my season] back, I was embarrassed and disgusted by my actions and the way I was portrayed or seen on TV. Ultimately, I had to live with the fact that my narrative is what was shown. And that was hard because that's not really who I am. I don't feel that what I was on the show is who I truthfully am but I did those things, I became that person."

However, the University of Missouri graduate didn't take full responsibility for his villainous ways. Echard also laid some blame firmly on the show's producers, revealing that he was left shocked over the way in which "drama was prioritized over the love story."

The Bachelor left Clayton Echard feeling suicidal

Clayton Echard began experiencing backlash from "The Bachelor" fans before a single episode had even aired thanks to his underwhelming stint on "The Bachelorette." And things didn't get much better, with the former footballer being called out for making Sarah Hamrick cry over his marriage questions, sending favorite Elizabeth Corrigan packing, and declaring his love for all three finalists.

In a 2022 chat with podcast "Off the Vine with Kaitlyn Bristowe," Echard admitted that the constant negativity left him contemplating suicide. It was only the support from finalist Susie Evans that pulled him back from the brink: "I think I wouldn't have been able to get through what I got through with anybody other than Susie. She was the only person that was going to help me see what I saw. And she was the only person that was going to keep me from going off the rails and doing something extremely drastic."

The former medical sales rep, who later split with Evans, also acknowledged that he wasn't in the right frame of mind when he signed up for the ABC dating show. "I had no business being the Bachelor with the person that I was then. The person I [am] now would have handled things 100 times better," he admitted.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

He became embroiled in a catfishing scandal

Clayton Echard famously declared his love for three different women during his stint on "The Bachelor." So it seemed easy to believe that he was just as much of a playa away from the TV screen when he was accused of cheating on then-girlfriend Susie Evans in April 2022.

TikTok personality Sasha Narang set the cat among the pigeons when she claimed that she'd gotten into bed with the former footballer after being introduced to him at a New York nightspot. This was obviously news to Echard, as he'd been in Arizona on the night in question, something which he and Evans later provided proof of. So was Narang, who subsequently apologized for her accusations, deliberately trying to cause trouble?

Well, she claimed she'd essentially been catfished, telling her followers (via Us Weekly), "There's someone impersonating Clayton in NYC and it's really freaky that I was put in that situation. He's taking advantage of girls by pretending to be him. Their resemblance is scary and he's memorized his entire life. I'm hoping to advertise what we now know is the truth as much as possible. I'm hoping people can help track this person's identity, and, most of all, get the word out about this messed up person."

Clayton Echard is now a wellness coach

Whereas the likes of Nick Viall and Colton Underwood have gone on to pursue careers in the spotlight after their stints on "The Bachelor," Clayton Echard seems determined to keep at least one foot in the real world.

Although the Season 26 suitor did give up his previous role as a medical sales rep for Stryker in 2021, he then pivoted into another area of healthcare. The star explained to Men's Health, "The easiest way to say it is I'm a physical and mental wellness advocate. I'm an online coach. So I offer fitness and nutrition plans to clients online. I speak around the country on mental health. I'm writing a book on mental health right now."

Echard, who also revealed he was in the process of obtaining his real estate license, states on LinkedIn what his main career goal now is: "By openly sharing my struggles with anxiety, depression, body dysmorphia, toxic masculinity, self-confidence, cyberbullying, comparison culture and many other issues that plague our society today, I hope to encourage others to feel confident enough to do the same. For when it comes to the pain we feel, the answer is to address it, not suppress it!"

Clayton Echard is done with reality TV

Having competed on both "The Bachelorette" and "The Bachelor" without finding the one, could Clayton Echard complete the ABC trifecta of dating shows and try his luck on "Bachelor in Paradise," too? Well, considering that he now appears to be officially done with the world of reality TV, that seems unlikely.

When asked by E! News whether he'd ever sign up for another dating show, the former footballer responded, "I don't like placing my trust and my whole identity in someone else's hands. So I don't know if I will ever do that again."

In fact, the former medical sales rep doesn't even know when he'll be ready to start dating again period, let alone on in front of millions of viewers. He explained, "I'm not looking to date right now. I'm not mentally healed. I can't even fathom seeing anybody in that light right now. And so, I think I'm really just taking this time to focus on myself. And I yeah, if I'm not healed, then I can't allow anybody else to be a part of my life."