Looking for love! Clayton Echard is the new Bachelor for season 26, which will premiere on Monday, January 3, ABC announced on Tuesday, November 30. 

Clayton, 28, competed on Michelle Young‘s season of The Bachelorette before being eliminated in week 6. He’s from Eureka, Missouri, and his Instagram bio once read: “Former freestyle rapper and washed-up athlete now trying his luck in orthopedic sales.”

However, Clayton, who used to play football for the Seattle Seahawks, has since updated it to read: “Approaching every day as an opportunity to be a better version of yesterday’s self.”

Who is Clayton Echard New Bachelor
Courtesy of Clayton Echard/Instagram

It was a tight race for the new Bachelor given the large pool of former contestants to choose from with former Bachelorettes Clare Crawley and Tayshia Adams’ guys in addition to the new faces from Katie Thurston and Michelle’s seasons. 

Some top contenders from Katie’s journey to find love included Michael Allio and Andrew Spencer.

Single dad Michael, 36, self-eliminated from season 17 because he could not stand to be away from his son, James, for another day. He also impressed fans with his candidness when it came to talking about his late wife, Laura, who died in 2019 after battling cancer. 

A major clue that the franchise was leaning toward Michael as the next leading man happened when Bachelor Nation Casting posted a callout looking specifically for “divorcees and single mothers” on July 26.

As for Andrew, 26, he was eliminated by Katie, 30, before hometown dates. The former football player returned to talk to the Washington native in hopes of getting a little closure. He handed her a note that said he would be “waiting” if things didn’t work out for her. Katie was so moved that she asked him to stay, but he declined because he felt “too hurt.”

That being said, there were a handful of very eligible men from season 16. Ivan Hall and Brendan Morais were both in Tayshia’s final four.

Brendan, 30, self-eliminated when he realized he wasn’t ready to get engaged during the finale. Ivan, 29, and the leading lady had a mutual split after they realized their differences in religion weren’t going to work for them in the long haul.

Both guys were cast on season 7 of Bachelor in Paradise. Brendan is now in a relationship with Pieper James, who also appeared on season 7 of Bachelor in Paradise

Last season’s Bachelor, Matt James, was in a unique situation because he had not previously appeared in the franchise. The former football player was initially supposed to compete as Clare’s contestant but was bumped up to lead before the show began filming. He was loosely tied to Bachelor Nation through his friendship with Tyler CameronHannah Brown’s former Bachelorette contestant.

Matt left the show with contestant Rachael Kirkconnell. They did not get engaged during the finale but opted to keep dating. They split shortly after amid the contestant’s racism social media scandal. However, they rekindled their romance once again and are currently dating.

Clayton captured Bachelor Nation’s hearts when he joined the franchise during Michelle’s season. While he impressed her during the group date with her students, she ultimately sent him home.

Prior to his departure, Clayton reflected on what he’s looking for in a relationship. “For me, tonight put into perspective that I want to settle down and have a family and all these things,” he told Michelle during their one-on-one date. ” … I’ve been single for so long, I forgot how much I wanted a future with somebody. Now I’m able to stop worrying and stop comparing myself to others and just be me.”

Good luck to our new Bachelor! Clayton’s journey begins on Monday, January 3, on ABC.