SALT LAKE CITY — Jackson and Cody Barton are going out in style with the 17th-ranked Utah Utes. The brothers, who are starters at left tackle and linebacker, respectively, are completing their collegiate careers on a big stage — the Pac-12 championship game and then a possible trip to the Rose Bowl to finish things off.
“This has been a goal of ours, not just as brothers but the whole team, since the summer, the winter, last season,” Cody said. “Here we are. Nothing’s finished yet, you know what I mean? So now we’ve just got to finish.”
The next step is Friday (6 p.m., FOX) against 10th-ranked Washington at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.
Jackson insists that’s where the focus is, not the trip to Pasadena that would follow a victory.
The latter, though, would be the ultimate bow to put on a special time for the Bartons. They’re major contributors on a Utah team making program history, reaching the Pac-12 title game for the first time.
“This is a dream come true. This is stuff that we were talking about when we were getting recruited by Utah,” Jackson said. “This is the game we’ve been dreaming of since we both got here together, and I’m really excited to be a part of it with him.”
Jackson added that Cody is “really a great player” and he loves watching him work. All the hard work, he continued, is paying off for both of them.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham appreciates how things have turned out.
Jackson hasn’t missed a game since redshirting in 2014. He currently leads the offensive line in total plays and cuts. Cody, meanwhile, is second on the team with 96 tackles. He ranks among the Pac-12 leaders in tackles for loss.
“They've both been great,” Whittingham said. “Their work ethic, their character, everything about them is first class.”
Although Cody is a year younger, the seniors have been able to play together because Jackson redshirted. They come from a talented family with deep ties to Utah. Parents Paul and Mikki were two-sport athletes for the Utes, while sister Dani Drews is a star volleyball player who was the lone Ute to be named to the Pac-12's All-Conference team on Tuesday.
“I can't say anything about the rest of the family because there is more on the way,” Whittingham said. “But hopefully this isn't the end of the line for the Bartons.”
There’s a younger sibling, Lander, who attends Brighton High.
Ranking the talent isn’t something Whittingham shies away from. He noted that Jackson and Cody trail their mother in terms of being the best athletes in the family.
“Mom is No. 1, but it has been great having them,” said Whittingham, who quipped that the duo is a story of “local boys that have made good.”
However, the pair is as different as their size. Jackson stands 6 foot 7 and weighs 313 pounds. Cody is 6 foot 2 and 230 pounds. They took altering paths to their current success.
“Everyone was recruiting Jackson. He’s a great player. He’s built for it,” recalls Drews. “Cody, like, he had to work so hard to get an offer.”
She went on to offer more, much more, insight about her older brothers.
“Cody is someone I look up to a lot because his work ethic is second to none. He works harder than anyone I know,” Drews said. “This year, for him, has been like a breakout year, and he’s doing so awesome. I can’t even express how proud of him I am. I’m so happy.”
Drews added that Jackson is also a really hard worker. She said he’s consistent and always performs.
“I look up to him a lot, just in a sense that he’s all about doing your job,” Drews explained. “He’s such a rule follower. He doesn’t ever break a rule.”
The brothers are very supportive of their sister. She receives advice from both, although neither knows much about volleyball. They’ve come to a lot of matches and text her before and after the outings.
“Jackson is super easygoing and super goofy. He really is just a giant kid. I’m excited for him to be a dad because he’s literally going to be like his kid’s best friend. I think he’ll love playing with him. He’s easygoing and relaxed,” Drews said. “And then Cody. Cody can be easygoing, but he’s a lot more intense of a personality. He’s super competitive.”
As such, Drews joked that he can be hard to love sometimes. His work ethic and discipline, though, draw her serious praise.
After football, Drews has a good idea of what her older siblings could end up doing. She said Jackson is so smart and a great artist who could do something cool like animation for movies or something with computers. He could always work in business because he’s very personable.Comment on this story
The same applies to Cody. Drews said he would be a real good salesman, one who can talk someone’s ear off. Cody can also be a “total goofball” in the right situations. She said that he likes to mess around and have fun.
However, first things first.
Jackson said the priority now is to “just leave a good, long legacy with my brother.”
• • •
2018 Pac-12 Championship Game
No. 17 Utah (9-3)
vs. No. 10 Washington (9-3)
Levi’s Stadium — Santa Clara, Calif.
Friday, 6 p.m. MST
Radio: ESPN 700AM