Sean Barton didn't play tackle football for the first time until he was in eighth grade, but the versatile Stanford commit knew early on that he was destined for a life in the sport.
"Sean is a kid who really loves to play football," said Carl Barton, Sean's father. "It is just in his DNA. We didn't let him play Pop Warner football as a kid. We made him play flag football instead. He and I were
in the car one day when he was 10 and he said to me, we were just kind of driving along not really saying anything, and he said, 'Dad, I cannot wait to get on the gridiron,' and that was his word choice, not mine, 'and just crush somebody.'
"And I said maybe in two or three years you can play. And the next year when he was 11, he was playing on a really good comp baseball team and a really good comp basketball team and also playing flag football still. We were in the car again and he said, 'Look. Let's just stop pretending. You and I both know that I was born to play football, so let's just quit wasting my time on this other stuff.' Sean just loves to play football."
For many years, Sean dreamt of one day fulfilling his football dream close to home at the University of Utah. Those aspirations were rooted in a deep connection between the Barton family and the school. Sean's grandfather was a professor at the University for more than 51 years, and Carl is involved with various boards at the university and is an active contributor to the school.
"His dream has always been to play football at the University of Utah," Carl said. "He literally grew up as a little kid envisioning himself doing that."
"He honestly believes that he was born to play football and his dream has always been to play football at the University of Utah."
Yet although at least part of Sean will always bleed Red and White, he's always been open to the idea of leaving the state, Carl said.
"I think he will always love Utah," Carl said. "He just does. And he loves their coaches. It's been interesting. We'll always be Utah fans. I think Sean has always felt like he wanted to get out and spread his wings a little bit and I think this recruiting process has helped him see that… I think he's always been open to that sort of thing."
Sean and his family identified Stanford as a school of interest early in the recruiting process. He visited The Farm for the first time last summer for a Junior Day and camp.
"He went to a camp probably I want to say in May or June last year and it was a defensive backs camp," Carl said. "They were enthusiastic about his performance and invited him back down in July for a Junior Day where he competed against some of Stanford's commits in the 2012 recruiting class. Coach Tarver, Coach Anderson and Coach Shaw were impressed with his speed and athleticism."
Barton made three more visits to Stanford before committing last month. Carl said that the family's early-June trip to Palo Alto convinced Sean that Stanford was an ideal fit.
"I think the thing that sort of clinched it for Sean was he and his brother and I went down in June and we spent two whole days," Carl said. "We spent all day Friday and all day Saturday with Coach Shaw, Coach Mason, Coach Anderson, Coach Kotulski. And he also spent a bunch of time with some of the players, including A.J. Tarpley. I think he really enjoyed spending time with him. He spent an evening with him and a couple of the other kids and so I think that (and) just getting a feel for the coaches (helped)."
The more Sean saw and learned about Stanford, the more the school grew on him.
"I think that really helped him get a clearer sense of how they felt like he fit and what his relationship might be with the coaches," Carl said. "He realizes that coaches come and go, but academics are important. I think doors being opened into graduate school opportunities and into life in general I think are a big deal for him in terms of his decision. And I think he obviously loved the campus and the climate.
"We also went to church down in Palo Alto at an LDS ward for single kids that go to Stanford and schools in the area to get a sense of the LDS community in Palo Alto. Sean has done his homework and just needed to kind of dig in and after we talked about priorities and things."
Stanford apparently fared well in Sean's final evaluation.
"I think probably four to six weeks before he made his decision he was leaning a different way," Carl said. "And I think he just feels great about his decision and we're enthusiastic and supportive of it as well. It's been a real interesting process for him and for us.
"Parents all over the country think Stanford is the greatest thing since sliced bread. I can tell you that we've obviously counseled with Sean a lot, but this is Sean's decision. He came to us probably two or three weeks before he committed and he said 'I think we both know that I think the right thing for me is to go to Stanford.' At that point, we encouraged him to take a few more weeks to make sure he could test his decision and still feel good about it."
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