Lander Barton wants to be a real cowboy someday. But first, the star linebacker has to decide whether he’ll be Ute, Duck, Wolverine, or Longhorn.
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Poplar and apple trees cover the 300 acre ranch along the Duchesne River. Cows, horses, turkeys and chickens dot the grounds around the opulent three-story ranch house.
For Lander Barton, one of Utah’s most sought-after high school football rookies, the land is a sanctuary, a home away from home, land away from the pitch.
Barton, a four-star rookie, has led the Bengals to a 7-2 record this season and has done so mostly on the defensive end, racking up double-digit tackles in virtually every game. The linebacker has been playing football for as long as he can remember. He wants to play in the NFL and is recruited by universities like Utah, Texas and Michigan. Those 100 meters of green grass and white lines are where the 17-year-old spends a lot of time.
At the end of each week, Barton takes over the football field and tries to help his team win.
Then he and his family spend most weekends on their ranch. He rides a blind horse with one eye. He hunts. He collects deer antlers. He leads cattle. He practices the lasso on a false bull’s head, his friends and his older sister’s three dogs.
“It’s probably my favorite place in the world,” Barton said.
The Barton family have owned the ranch for almost two decades. It is an integral part of the development of Barton and his siblings. It is a place to reflect.
And right now, Barton is currently mulling over a decision that could separate him from his favorite place and his close family for the next several years.
Hard shell, good heart
Mikki Barton describes the whole family as “talkative”. But not his youngest.
On a recent visit to Michigan, Barton and his parents sat down in coach Jim Harbaugh’s office. The meeting lasted about two hours, and during that time Barton barely spoke. Harbaugh asked Barton what he thought of Michigan and he replied, “That’s good.”
“I don’t think he said more than 10 words,” Mikki Barton said. “And he’s the recruit.
Barton’s calm nature might lead some to believe that he is shy or aloof. But those close to him say nothing can be further from the truth. In fact, Barton has a lot of self-confidence and is even learning to be more of a vocal leader in his Bengals squad.
“He kind of likes to sit and watch and he really notices a lot and he’s always kind of listening,” said Dani Drews, his older sister who recently became the all-time frontman for volleyball utes. really wasting words. He will say something if he needs to, but most of all he is content to observe, notice and perceive his surroundings.
Once someone gets past the calm Barton, they are introduced to the selfless Barton, the sarcastic Barton, the nice Barton, the laid back Barton.
Brighton coach Justin Hemm said after a recent game his star linebacker stopped talking to his friends and fans and offered to help him carry the equipment. Barton also regularly keeps the door to the weight room open for his teammates and waits for everyone to enter.
“It’s just the subtle little things like that, that can sometimes go unnoticed, that he makes second nature without even being asked to do or told to do,” Hemm said.
Twice a year, Barton will also participate in events where he helps the less fortunate. Jake Reece, one of Barton’s friends and teammates in Brighton, said he has helped feed the homeless with Barton on several occasions. He remembers Barton having had a five-minute conversation with a homeless woman sitting on the sidewalk.
“I really like hanging out with him just because he has a really kind heart,” Drews said. “But people might not see him when he’s competing on the football field. He is fair [a] good soul. “
Barton is a two-way player on the pitch who is hard to miss. He is 6 feet 4 inches tall and 215 pounds of pure muscle. He is athletic and flexible, attributes aided by his diligent practice of nutrition, hydration and Pilates. And not only is he a soccer player, he also plays basketball for Brighton and fights with enough training he could start in his older sister ‘utes volleyball team.
But Barton is more than just a physical specimen. His friends, family and coaches marvel at his maturity and intelligence. Drews said she constantly forgets that she is older than her brother because of the way he talks and behaves. Mikki Barton said her youngest son was the most mature of all her children at 17.
And aside from being an A level student at Brighton, he is also a level A football student. He watches more hours of movies compared to the rest of the defensive players. He assimilates concepts and diagrams faster than his teammates.
Hemm said that in all of his training years, he never had a high school player with Barton’s emotional intelligence and mental toughness. That’s why he thinks any school that ends up dropping the linebacker will be lucky enough.
“He’s the elite of the elite when it comes to the mental and the emotional, which I think makes him even more special,” said Hemm. “Whoever gets it will get more than he knows he’s getting because of those things he can’t necessarily say off the pitch.”
Barton is the youngest of four children. His two older brothers who play in the NFL, Jackson and Cody, are 26 and 24, respectively, while Drews is 22. After this season, they will all be Utah alumni.
Barton’s parents, Paul and Mikki, were athletes in two sports at U. Paul played soccer and baseball, while Mikki played basketball and volleyball.
The Bartons are bleeding Utah Red. It’s no wonder, then, that the family matriarch is openly lobbying for her son to follow in everyone’s footsteps and commit to the Utes.
Barton has previously made visits to Michigan and Texas. He’s visiting Utah this weekend and is planning a visit to Oregon at the end of the month.
Mikki Barton said the main reason she wanted him to stay was to be near his home and his beloved ranch for a little longer. His other two sons live in their NFL towns and Drews is preparing for a professional volleyball career overseas.
But Mikki Barton also wants her son to make what he thinks is the best decision for his life and career. However, it was sometimes difficult for her.
“All of these tours are a little weird,” Mikki Barton said. “It almost makes me feel like I’m cheating on Utah. … “Some days I agree more with that than others.”
Barton’s close friends believe he will end up choosing Utah, but they are not sure. Barton keeps his thoughts on recruiting close to the vest, not even talking to his parents about where he might lean. Mikki Barton said her son’s independence with her decision reminded her of herself.
Drews, who is fondly regarded as Barton’s second mom, said it made no difference to her where her younger brother is playing college football, although it would be nice to have him nearby.
“For me personally, I just want Lander to go where he’s happiest and prepare to be successful in the future,” Drews said. “And selfishly, I wish he was close to me. But honestly, I just want him to go where he feels happiest and where he feels is right for him.
Barton has said he will make his final decision on the university in November, early December at the latest.
“It’s not about trying to be different or unique,” Barton said. “It’s just about doing what I think is the right choice for me or the best fit. A lot of people think of it as trying to be different from family or breaking up or being myself. But it’s really doing what I think is my best opportunity to take it to the next level.
The Utes might have a unique advantage in wooing Barton. Their linebacker coach Colton Swan is a passionate cowboy, and has taken his players horseback riding in the past. Some close to Barton believe the connection with Swan might be too good to pass up.
“I’d be surprised if he didn’t go to Utah because Coach Swan, the linebacker coach, is also a cowboy type,” Barton’s childhood friend Max Alford said when ‘they lived in Park City. “They log on to this stuff.”
Barton’s identity has been tied to the cowboy for so long that for the first five years of his life he wore only Wrangler jeans, a button-down Wrangler shirt, cowboy boots, and a cowboy hat. , his mother said. He even keeps a rope tied around a headrest in his car.
Nick Hagman, another Barton teammate at Brighton, said his friends called him “Horse Boy” or “Cowboy”. He also said Barton wore a cowboy hat to a school ball and there were rows of cowboy boots in his bedroom.
Barton said he was more of a “poseur cowboy” than a real one. But he’s serious about becoming a real one. He said that once his football days are over he will become a full-time breeder.