It’s official: ABC has announced Clayton Echard as the next star of “The Bachelor.”
Echard, a suitor on the current season of “The Bachelorette” with Michelle Young, will lead Season 26 of the long-running dating show.
Echard was first reported by Variety back in September to be the new “Bachelor” when photos of him filming with a camera crew were leaked by the press.
At that time, sources close to the show told Variety that producers had fallen in love with Echard during Young’s season of “The Bachelorette,” and keenly had their eye on him to be the franchise’s next leading man, especially after his heart was broken on the show.
Spoiler alert, but on last week’s “Bachelorette” episode, Echard was sent home by Young, resulting in an emotional, tear-filled and gut-wrenching departure, bringing his journey for love with Young to an end — but also setting up his storyline perfectly on “The Bachelor.” After all, America loves and hates a good heartbreak.
Echard will get a second shot at love on reality TV, beginning in the new year when his season premieres on Jan. 3.
Echard’s season marks the 20th year of “The Bachelor” franchise being on the air with 26 seasons of the flagship “Bachelor,” 18 seasons of “Bachelorette,” seven seasons of “Bachelor in Paradise” and more seasons of various spinoffs, including “Bachelor Pad,” “The Bachelor Winter Games” and even a potential senior citizens version of the dating show, which Variety hears is still in the works.
Echard’s season is also the first of “The Bachelor” not to be helmed by veteran host Chris Harrison, who departed the franchise earlier this year. Jesse Palmer — the former NFL quarterback and ESPN commentator, who happened to star as “The Bachelor” himself in Season 5 — will take the reigns as host.
Though the network had not officially confirmed Echard’s casting at the time, Palmer had posted a picture with the new leading man during filming this fall.
Echard is also a former football player, having briefly been in the NFL with the Seattle Seahawks after he played at the University of Missouri, as a walk-on, who ultimately guided the team to back-to-back SEC championship games and a national top ten ranking. The Midwesterner currently works in medical sales, and is embarking on his MBA with hopes of starting his own business.
Here’s a first look at Season 26 of “The Bachelor,” starring Clayton Echard: