ESPN Falcons reporter Vaughn McClure died this week at age 48. In one way or another, every member of The Falcoholic team knew him either personally or through his work and came to appreciate the work he did and the kind of man he was. Chances are that you read countless stories he wrote and reports he shared since he joined ESPN in 2013, if you didn’t know him yourself. Below, we shared some memories of Vaughn and what he meant to us.
I got to know Vaughn thanks to a simple Twitter DM. When he arrived in Atlanta as ESPN’s new Falcons beat reporter, I shot him a note welcoming him to the beat and telling him to let me know if needed anything. and he responded with a gracious note of his own. Over the next several years, I got to meet Vaughn (during that last, doomed Mike Smith year in 2014) and talked to him regularly.
If you only knew Vaughn from his work as a reporter for ESPN, you probably appreciated how straightforward and thorough his reporting was, as I always did. But he was also a tremendous person, someone who would call you just to ask how you were doing and sign off telling you how much he appreciated you. He had a difficult life and a difficult job, but he always wanted to know what was going on with you, and he always had a funny story or an interesting tidbit to share. It’s no exaggeration to say that his friendship helped get me through some difficult times in my life, and I really loved Vaughn McClure for his thoughtfulness and his grace. Judging by the outpouring of grief and fond memories I saw last night, I was far from the only person he made feel special and worthwhile just by being himself.
He can’t be replaced, either as a reporter or as a human being, and I’m going to miss him terribly. —Dave Choate
Like everyone, I really didn’t comprehend the text I got that told me that Vaughn McClure had died. This has been an incredibly hard year on many fronts, and losing a dutiful, passionate reporter like Vaughn is just not something any of us could’ve seen coming. He was vigilant, smart, fair and mindful in his reporting, never afraid to speak the truth when it needed to be said and be patient and wise with his coverage of the team when other reporters might’ve pivoted to the more click-friendly headlines. As a young journalist, I read a lot of what Vaughn wrote and greatly learned from it. You can’t really quantify what a loss this is just on his wonderful body of work alone.
But, Vaughn was most importantly an incredibly kind person and someone who encouraged and cared for his peers. I met him in 2017, when I was covering the Falcons/Vikings game for The Falcoholic. We’d corresponded virtually over time, every interaction friendly and supportive. But when I introduced myself, he gave me a big hug like he’d known me for a long time and welcomed me to the fold of reporters, if only for a day. You can’t imagine what that meant to a wide-eyed young reporter covering his first NFL game. I never forgot it; you don’t forget acts of kindness like that. What a fantastic person Vaughn was, and what a loss. - Cory Woodroof
I first met Vaughn when The Falcoholic secured credentials with the Falcons. I went into being essentially a full-time beat reporter with literally no actual reporting experience. Vaughn was, without fail, determined, detailed, thoughtful, and thorough. I was just a blogger, and he was writing for ESPN, but he always treated me like an equal, and I was so fortunate to know him and get to learn so much from him.
Vaughn was a hell of a reporter, but he was also a great friend. I was in the media room working when I got the news that my old dog, Hogan, was in the early stages of kidney failure. I was devastated, and Vaughn was quick to ask if I was OK and if he could help in any way. I went through a divorce during the 2016 season, and Vaughn knew I didn’t want to talk about it, but if I looked like I was having a rough time, he’d just pat me on the shoulder when he was walking by to let me know he cared about what I was going through. He used to thank me when someone at the site would write a story off of his reporting and credit him, because he was truly grateful we respected his work so much. Those are just three examples out of many. He was so supportive and kind to me professionally and personally.
Vaughn’s dad passed recently, and I hope they’re reunited and watching basketball together. My heart goes out to everyone who loved Vaughn. I will miss him greatly. - Jeanna Thomas
I don’t have much to add to what others know knew him much better have already said. I had just one meaningful interaction with Vaughn, but it showed a kindness and decency that many didn’t get to see. I noticed him speaking on twitter about his high blood pressure and I simply responded that I had it too, and I hoped that he got to feeling better. He jumped into my direct message to thank me for the words and then proceeded to tell me to take good care of myself for my family and friends.
It falls in line with what Dave and Jeanna have said about him and it’s part of what makes his death so devastating. In a year where personal attacks and vitriol are the norm - and often celebrated - Vaughn was a reminder of why we all need to put value back into kindness and decency. We lost a good man today and my hope is that some of us can fill that gap. - David Walker
I never had the honor to know or meet Vaughn personally. However, my journalism career got it’s start in 2015. About a year after that, I began to write about the Atlanta Falcons. Vaughn was that one model of consistency that I observed and studied for years. Even prior to me becoming a writer, Vaughn has always been a reliable source and a dependable beacon of knowledge and information when it came to any and everything Falcons.
Vaughn’s passing is a lesson to all. A lesson to love life. Every second, every minute, every hour, every day. Love it and cherish it. No matter how long you have been a Falcon follower or fan, you knew the professionalism and the superior work that Vaughn was going to provide. He will be missed. As a reporter and as a man. - Eric Robinson
I met Vaughn when the Falcons played the Giants in 2015. I approached him as a 22-year-old nervous writer covering my first game as a credentialed media member. I always admired his desire as a reporter. I desperately wanted to meet him. He couldn’t have been more cordial when I introduced myself. He showed me around the press box and where to go for interviews after the game. It was always cool to see him at games I covered in 2016 and 2017. He was one of the main people that inspired me to cover the Falcons like a true objective writer. Regardless of my childhood fandom, I wanted to be candid and unbiased with everything I wrote and said thanks to people like him.
On New Year’s Eve in 2017, Vaughn sent me a direct message. I was with my friends at a party in Long Island City. I noticed Vaughn was still tweeting about the Falcons securing a playoff spot after beating Carolina earlier in the evening. I sent a short tweet telling him how much I appreciate his work ethic. He messaged me saying, “Don’t think I don’t see you. You have been crushing it this year. Keep up the great work.” To receive such high praise by someone you hold such a high regard for is a wonderful feeling. I had a glass of champagne in my hand when he sent the message. His message made my night. I saw him two weeks later at the divisional round playoff game between the Falcons and Eagles. He instantly hugged me when he saw me. We became good buddies in 2018. He always showed support by talking to me before every game I covered. I cherished all of our conversations.
Vaughn was not only an outstanding reporter. He was an exceptional human being. How much he supported his father always left a lasting impact on me. How much time he spent with his father in the hospital made me want to be more supportive towards my loved ones, particularly my five-year-old niece and three-year-old godson. Vaughn always inspired me to do better as a writer and person. His personality made you want to make a difference.
There was no hiding the emotions when I saw the devastating news. His passing is heartbreaking. Vaughn meant a lot to me. I’ll forever appreciate everything he did to provide the best game and news coverage. I’ll forever appreciate how much adversity he overcame to establish himself as one of the best in the business. I’ll forever appreciate the good times we had from eating bacon in the press box to sitting in the back of Dan Quinn’s press conferences. Vaughn will be greatly missed. He deserves all the love in the world for who he was a person and what he did as a reporter. - Allen Strk
I only met Vaughn a handful of times in my years covering the Falcons, as I live out of state and rarely get a chance to attend games in person. In those few, brief moments, I got a chance to appreciate a man whose reporting I relied upon on countless occasions. Hearing my fellow writers’ stories about him, I wish I had more time to get to know Vaughn on a personal level. He seemed to connect with everyone, and his professionalism and focus on his craft was always inspiring to me. It’s devastating to lose such a respected colleague, and despite my limited relationship with him, I will miss him dearly. - Kevin Knight