Last week, Stanford linebacker commit Sean Barton learned a significant piece of news about the next two years of his life, and it had nothing to do with his college recruitment.
Barton received official word that he will be spending most of the two years after his high school graduation in Benin Cotonou Africa to serve his LDS church mission. Several of Barton's close family members served their missions in France, but Barton will take a different path.
"I just think it's awesome," Barton said of his mission assignment. "I didn't want to go where everyone else in my family and go to France. I was kind of excited to be unique and go somewhere no one else has really gone in my family."
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Barton will speak French on his mission. Less than a week after graduating high school, in mid-June, Barton will move to Provo, Utah, to prepare for his trip at the Mission Training Center. There, he'll improve his French skills and prepare for the mission trip before leaving for Africa in late July or August.
"I'm excited to get out there and just grow up, as well as the service opportunity," Barton said. "I like doing service, that kind of stuff. It's a great opportunity to get out on your own and just kind of grow up."
Contact with friends and family back in the United States will be limited when Barton is serving his mission, and he probably won't be able to keep close tabs on the day-to-day happenings of his future school. Barton has high expectations for Stanford football in the next few years, however.
"You get letters from people," Barton said. "You can get emails from your parents and stuff. I'll have plenty of information. I'll definitely be asking about how they're doing. See how many national championships they win while I'm gone. But that's pretty much the only way. There's no TV or anything. That's the only way."
Barton is happy that to finally know where he will spend the next few years of his life.
"Especially the past few days because I knew it was coming this week for sure, I was pretty anxious," Barton said.
Earlier this month, Barton spent a weekend in a familiar destination: Palo Alto, California, for his official visit to Stanford. The trip marked Barton's seventh time visiting The Farm.
"I liked it for meeting the players," Barton said of the trip. "I did pretty much else there is to do there campus-tour wise and that kind of stuff. It was nice to meet those guys."
Barton was hosted by freshman quarterback Dallas Lloyd on the trip. Lloyd shared his own experiences about acclimating to college football after taking a church mission trip with Barton.
"He just said that it's hard," Barton said. "It's really hard, but missions are hard too, he said, so you're used to hard work and be ready to come back and be out of shape, but if you work pretty hard when you get back then you'll be alright."
After Barton returned home from his official visit, Stanford head coach David Shaw made an in-home visit with Barton and his family.
"Just having him there, it was solidified what I thought of him," Barton said. "He's a great guy. And really easy to get along with and you can tell he really cares about the players. It just made my choice seem better to me, like it was the right place for me to go."
In the meantime, Barton won't ease up on his athletic schedule. He will run track this spring, and is targeting a 10.7 or low 10.8 in the 100 meter dash. Increasing his athleticism and winning a track title are among his athletic goals before leaving the country this summer.
"Just get as explosive as I can, get ready for the mission and see if I can't win state in track," Barton said.
The four-star recruit will sign his letter of intent with Stanford early next month. And while other schools will have an opportunity to re-recruit Barton before he plans to enroll in college due to his mission plans, Barton doesn't plan to consider other options.
"I'm locked in on Stanford," Barton said. "I won't go anywhere else, that's for sure."