The season 26 lead’s relationships with his finalists blew up during the 2022 season when Evans called Echard sleeping with Gabby Windey and Rachel Recchia a dealbreaker. The former football player subsequently convinced Windey and Recchia to stay — saying that he loved all three women — but ultimately sent them home ahead of the final rose ceremony because he had the strongest feelings for Evans.
“Just because I loved her the most, did not mean I had made a definitive answer that she was The One,” Echard said on Us Weekly’s “Here for the Right Reasons” podcast in March 2022 after the finale aired. “I do believe everything happens for a reason. And when she left, like, I said, ‘OK, I have these two incredible women here and I need to continue to pour into them because this is what apparently, exactly needed to happen. So give these women your all and see if maybe you’ll end up walking outta here with one of ’em.’”
While Evans briefly returned to the show, she didn’t accept Echard’s final rose.
“To be honest with you, I knew she would show up ‘cause I knew it wasn’t her character not to show up. But I was very, very certain she was going to say no to me. I kind of anticipated that,” Echard told Us, explaining why he picked out an engagement ring. “I wanted her to know that, ‘Hey, I’m for real about this. I really, really do love you and I would get down on a knee,’ but I was reading the room. I was waiting to see how she came in, and I could tell by her mood and through her words that I’m, like, obviously, this will not lead to a proposal. This is going to lead to the end of the line. I had come to terms with that. It hurt me, but I was like, ‘Whatever she tells you, respect it and be thankful that she showed up.’”
They ultimately reunited before the series started airing in January 2022 and during spring 2022, the twosome moved in together in her native Virginia Beach.
“We’ve talked about it and we know from here on out, like, this is a relationship in the real world where you never know — anything can happen and we’re aware of that,” Echard told Us. “We’re gonna give this every chance that we can. We love each other. And as of right now, we’re both very, very happy. But relationships take effort. They are hard at times. And so we know that there’s gonna be those moments that lie ahead. There’s never any guarantee in life, but with all that being said, I am incredibly happy to be with her. I’m so excited to be able to just go get dinner, to go hiking, do all these things with her, travel.”
By August 2022, however, the Missouri native revealed that the duo were set to live apart.
“Currently, we are in Virginia Beach, but our next step actually is, I’m moving to Scottsdale, and she’s going to move in the interim to L.A. Only a 50-minute flight apart, but we’re both chasing our dreams, and I think location-wise, we both feel that those are the spots that we want to be,” he said on the “Not Skinny But Not Fat” podcast. “I mean, I’m working on my computer 10, 12 hours a day. So she was like, ‘Clayton, I’ll move to L.A. and then we can travel on the weekends to see each other.’ And we’ll see. We don’t know if we’re going to like that long-distance.”
The following month, they announced their split.
Scroll through for more from Echard and Evans about their relationship: