While America has yet to be introduced to Clayton on The Bachelorette's upcoming eighteenth season premiering October 19, reports are swirling ABC and producers have already selected the 28-year-old orthopedic sales representative to star on The Bachelor in early 2022.
After The Hollywood Reporter claimed late last week The Bachelor's Season 26 star will be a bachelor who will appear on Michelle's season, photos leaked on Wednesday of Clayton filming with a camera crew, prompting speculation he's the lucky guy, E! News reported.
A source told E! News that the photos were taken on what appeared to be the set of a promo shoot for The Bachelor.
The camera crew was filming near a house in Missouri and Clayton, a former college football player, just so happens to be from Eureka, MO.
Although ABC has yet to officially announce the next Bachelor and has declined comment on casting rumors, multiple sources subsequently toldVariety that Clayton will be the franchise's next leading man.
Production on The Bachelor reportedly begins this month, but the announcement of Clayton's participation will reportedly not be made any time soon given Michelle's season hasn't even premiered yet.
The Bachelor's 26th season is also not expected to debut until early January 2022.
According to insiders, producers fell in love with Clayton's "story" during Michelle's The Bachelorette season and so he rose to the top of their potential-next Bachelor list, Variety reported.
The Bachelor creator and executive producer Mike Fleiss all but confirmed Clayton is ABC's choice for its next star after reports of his selection surfaced.
Mike tweeted Wednesday night, "Major Announcement!!! Your new #TheBachelor is a great guy from Michelle's season of #TheBachelorette. Can't wait for you to meet him!"
Mike proceeded to write on Twitter, "Another Major Announcement!!! His first name starts with the letter 'C.' #TheBachelor."
ABC initially shared a first look at 35 men potentially competing for Michelle's heart in July before filming began, and Clayton was on that list.
Of ABC's The Bachelorette list of 35 suitors who "may" appear on Michelle's The Bachelorette season, the men with "C" names in addition to Clayton are Casey, a 36-year-old from Parkland, FL; Christopher G., a 27-year-old from Halifax, Nova Scotia; and Chris S., a 28-year-old from New Orleans, LA.
Production on Michelle's The Bachelorette season just wrapped late last week, and ABC has yet to announce the official cast of bachelors who will be appearing on Season 18.
Prior to working in orthopedic sales, Clayton was reportedly a former freestyle rapper and collegiate football player.
Clayton, who boasts a similar look to Sean Lowe or Colton Underwood, played football at the University of Missouri and spent the 2016 NFL pre-season with the Seattle Seahawks after signing as an undrafted rookie following the NFL Draft.
The athlete refers to himself as a "washed-up athlete now trying his luck in orthopaedic sales" in his Instagram bio.
If Clayton was in fact cast as The Bachelor star, he'll be the first Bachelor Nation alum to be named The Bachelorstar before home viewers are able to watch his initial appearance on The Bachelorette or Bachelor in Paradise.
While The Bachelor's Season 25 star Matt James was announced as the Bachelor before Clare Crawley'sThe Bachelorette season aired last year, Matt was actually plucked out of the cast before filming began and did not vie for Clare's roses.
Matt's casting made history because he became the first Black man to ever star on The Bachelor, and he was also already well known in the press and on social media for being the best friend of Tyler Cameron, who finished as the runner-up on Hannah Brown's The Bachelorette season.
As for Michelle, Matt eliminated her from The Bachelor 25 in second place, and then Michelle was announced on After the Final Rose as one of two The Bachelorette stars -- along with Katie -- for back-to-back seasons in 2021.
"I am ready... I really do think that this process works," Michelle said on After the Final Rose.
"When you can [cast] out all of these outside distractions and really dive in, I think you can learn a lot about somebody. I'm just excited. I'm ready to get started!"