The Bachelor has its new leading man! ABC has officially announced Clayton Echard will be handing out the roses next season after making his Bachelor Nation debut on Michelle Young's ongoing season of The Bachelorette. The 28-year-old medical sales rep from Missouri made it to the final eight of Young's season before being eliminated, leaving him open to becoming the next Bachelor.
Wednesday, Echard opened up on Good Morning America, saying "it doesn't feel real at times" to have been chosen as the lead. "I was so incredibly honored and humbled to have had the experience, learned a lot about myself and it has been quite the journey," he said of his season, which premieres Jan. 3 on ABC.
Echard praised the group of women who came on his journey with him as bringing everything he had on his checklist for a potential life partner "and so much more." Teasing the end of his season, Echard continued, "I did find love, and I was a little skeptical going into the whole journey but I'm so pleasantly surprised that things worked out much different than what I had thought. I'm just so excited to watch it back and have everyone else watch it as well."
When it comes to his time as the Bachelor, Echard said the biggest lesson was getting "comfortable with being uncomfortable and stepping out of that comfort zone" so he could continue to grow as a person. Echard opened up on his final date with Young about struggling with not feeling "good enough," saying he long struggled with chasing things he thought would bring him happiness.
"I just want to find love so badly. And have a family. And start that chapter of my life," Echard said after Young told him he would be going home. "I want it more than anything else. And I'll do whatever it takes to get that. Whatever it takes."
Echard's role as the Bachelor was first rumored in September, then largely confirmed the following month by the ABC dating show's new host, Jesse Palmer. Posing alongside Echard in a photo shared to Instagram, Palmer captioned the shot, "Meet my younger, bigger, better looking brother from another mother, @claytonechard," adding "#TheBachelor" and a rose emoji for good measure. The Bachelor returns Jan. 3 on ABC.