As a mother of four children who have played a variety of sports, Mikki Barton has attended several hundred events in all kinds of venues. What's missing from her list? An NFL game.
Barton has saved her first pro football experience for a game involving one of her sons, and she's hoping for multiple opportunities in 2019.
Utah's Barton brothers won't match the 2018 achievement of Virginia's Tremaine and Terrell Edmunds, the first brothers ever picked in the first round of the same NFL draft. Even so, Cody and Jackson Barton will have their chances to make NFL teams. Cody, a linebacker, is expected to be taken somewhere in the middle of the seven-round draft that runs Thursday through Saturday.
Jackson, an offensive tackle, should be drafted in the late rounds or sign a free-agent contract to complete the brothers’ entry into pro football. The sons of former Ute athletes Paul and Mikki Barton were among six Utah players invited to the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
When • Thursday-Saturday
TV • NFL Network, Ch. 4, ESPN, ESPN Deportes
“I know that's an experience that hardly anyone can say they've ever done,” Cody Barton said of going through the process with his brother.
This convergence was made possible by Jackson’s redshirting as a Utah freshman in 2014, while Cody was playing his senior season at Brighton High School. As their Ute careers unfolded, Jackson initially became the more established player and better NFL prospect, before Cody emerged in 2018 as Utah’s leading tackler and possibly the program’s highest 2019 draftee — in competition with safety Marquise Blair.
That's basically how it all started for the Bartons in little league football. In those early years of Ute Conference play, Cody was the star and Jackson had “a big body that he had to figure out how to use,” their mother said.
But “then it switched,” she said, as Cody stopped growing as quickly and Jackson matured. At Utah, Jackson developed into a consistent player, while Cody took longer to find himself.
“He's a self-made guy,” Ute coach Kyle Whittingham said. “He came into the program as a good football player, a good athlete. But where does he fit? He was a 'tweener; is he a safety, is he a 'backer? He, through sheer hard work and determination, made himself into a premier player in the program.”
The Bartons have distinct demeanors, as illustrated again during media interviews after Utah’s Pro Day last month. Jackson is friendly and willingly fields questions. Cody is far more engaging, though, with much longer answers. Their varied traits explain why they have different agents, with the proper fit for each’s personality, their mother said.
Asked about the predraft process, Jackson said, “All I can do is just go through with a big, ol' smile and enjoy every bit of it.”
Cody's approach involves his usual intensity. He may have risen above outside expectations to become an NFL prospect, but not his own. “It feels like where I'm supposed to be,” he said. “This has been a dream of mine since I was a little boy, and so it's just on to the next thing. First dream, to play at Utah. Got it. OK, I want to be a captain. Got it. I want to go to the Combine. Got it. I want to be an NFL football player. I'm just excited for what's coming my way next.”
Jackson made the All-Pac-12 first team last season; Cody received honorable mention at a position loaded with talent in the conference (including Utah's Chase Hansen, a first-team pick). Partly because Hansen missed the Holiday Bowl due to injury, Cody finished as Utah's top tackler for the season with 116 stops, including 68 solo tackles and 10.5 tackles for loss.
Reviewing Cody’s growth in Utah’s program, Mikki Barton said, “He’s had to fight for every bit of it.… He’s not going to let himself go unnoticed.”
That’s true. NFL scouts definitely have discovered him.