The Bachelorette fans have been swooning over Michael ever since he competed for Katie's heart on Season 17 earlier this year and revealed he's a widower who thinks it would be a blessing and unique opportunity to fall in love twice.
Even Season 14 The Bachelorette star Becca Kufrin previously said on her "Bachelor Happy Hour" podcast she was "rooting" for Michael to be the next Bachelor because she believes he's incredibly sweet and genuine.
But it's been widely reported the new Bachelor for 2022 is Clayton Echard, a 28-year-old orthopedic sales representative and former college football player from Eureka, MO, who will first be appearing on Michelle Young's The Bachelorette season this fall.
During a Sunday Q&A session on his Instagram Stories, a fan asked Michael "why" he wasn't selected as the next Bachelor.
Michael paused before replying, "Hm. I don't know," according toUs Weekly.
Without identifying Clayton by name, the 37-year-old business owner from Akron, OH, reportedly proceeded to say, "But I'm sure the next one is going to be a really good one."
Michael ultimately decided to quit Katie's The Bachelorette season in fourth place after FaceTiming with his four-year-old son James, who sadly voiced how it seemed like his father didn't want to see him since Michael had been away filming the show for over a month in New Mexico at that point.
Michael has been raising James on his own, with the help of his beloved parents and in-laws, ever since his college sweetheart and late wife Laura Ritter-Allio died from breast cancer in January 2019.
Katie seemed smitten with Michael heading into the men's hometown dates, so both she and the bachelor were crushed over his premature exit.
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On the topic of "regrets," Michael reportedly shared with his followers, "Honestly never question whether or not I'd regret going on Katie's season. I made a lot of good friends, Katie's awesome and honestly would do it a million times over again."
Michael confirmed earlier this month he was "approached" to be the next Bachelor, although ABC clearly chose to go in a different direction.
"There have been discussions. No decisions have been made," Michael said on the September 8 episode of Nick Viall's "The Viall Files" podcast, according to Us.
"I had reservations being a contestant. Those are even heightened when you're the lead. Obviously, there's, you know, a lot of shiny things that come with the lead, but sometimes not everything that shimmers is gold here."
Michael reportedly added, "My son, my lifestyle, what do I want after this? Am I ready to introduce my son to random people that he doesn't know? Maybe. I don't know."
Nick, however, pointed out how it would be "worth it" for The Bachelor producers to "accommodate" Michael's particular needs regarding his child.
"If I was the Bachelor, 100 percent James would be there. They've made accommodations for people in the past," Michael reportedly said, referring to former franchise leads Jason Mesnick and Emily Maynard.
"I'm 37. I'm not looking to date around and do all that. Casting is totally different, location is different."
"I literally just got my heart broken on TV, so I am trying to mend those wings. And I have to think about what it would be like to get engaged in and introduce someone to my son in such a quick timeframe," Michael explained at the time.
As for Clayton, fans will be introduced to him whenThe Bachelorette's eighteenth season premieres Tuesday, October 19 at 8PM ET/PT on ABC.
"I'm looking to find my person," Clayton told Fox2Now.
A source told Us that Clayton "stood out right off the bat" to The Bachelorette producers while he vied for Michelle's roses.
"Producers ended up going with him because they believed he was the best fit for the role. They wanted to switch things up and go with someone new and someone who hasn't been in the spotlight yet," the source explained.
"The mystery makes it more exciting for the prospective contestants. The crew found out about it last minute. The decision wasn't even made until about a week prior to filming his intro."
Production on Michelle's season just wrapped earlier this month.