Vaughn McClure, a member of ESPN's NFL coverage team since 2013, died this week at his home near Atlanta. He was 48.
McClure joined ESPN to cover the NFL, and he settled in on the Atlanta Falcons beat as part of NFL Nation. He covered the team during its run to Super Bowl LI in 2017. He contributed to ESPN's television and radio coverage of the Falcons and the NFL, as well.
"We all loved Vaughn," said John Pluym, senior deputy editor for digital NFL coverage at ESPN. "He had a heart of gold. He was so helpful to our reporters. In the last few hours, we've heard so many stories about how Vaughn had helped them with a story or how he put in a good word for them with a coach or player."
Pluym added: "Talking to Vaughn on the phone was always a joy. I loved how you could just sense the excitement in his voice for being able to cover the Falcons for ESPN. We will all miss him greatly. And I'll end this the way Vaughn ended every phone call with a colleague: 'Appreciate you. Love you.' We all loved him, too."
Tributes to McClure quickly spread on social media after news of his death, with Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher among those sending condolences. "Today I was very saddened to hear about the passing of my dear friend Vaughn McClure," he wrote. "We became fast friends when he was covering the Bears. He had a big heart and was one of the nicest guys you will ever meet. You will be missed."
Wrote longtime NFL quarterback Josh McCown: "Heartbreaking news about Vaughn McClure. Text[ed] last week for background on some QB stuff. He was a very thorough journalist. Always a positive vibe every time we connected. Finished every text with 'love ya bro.' Rest well Vaughn. Love ya bro."
The Falcons, in a statement, said: "We are saddened to learn of the passing of ESPN's Vaughn McClure. He was an earnest, thoughtful reporter who had a passion for his craft and the relationships he held. He will be missed dearly and we are holding his family, friends and associates in our thoughts and prayers."
McClure came to ESPN after covering the Bears for the Chicago Tribune for six seasons.
"People will probably remember how Vaughn was able to connect and develop trusting relationships with many of the athletes he covered, or how diligent he was about deadlines, or the countless times he volunteered to help out a colleague on another sport," said Patricia Mays, senior director of content strategy and distribution at ESPN and who brought McClure to the company. "But what I respected most was how committed he was to continually improving. One of the last emails I received from him was asking for feedback. He wrote: 'Would love to talk to you after the season about how I can get better at a lot of things. I want to be great at this job.'"
Among his other assignments while at the Tribune was covering the Bulls in the postseason. Previously, he covered Notre Dame football for the Chicago Sun-Times and Fresno State basketball for The Fresno Bee. He also worked at the South Bend Tribune and DeKalb Daily Chronicle.
McClure, who graduated from Northern Illinois University in 1994, was a Chicago native.