Pizza ordered? Check. Dip made? Check? Beverages chilling in the fridge? Check, check, and check. Across America, folks are ticking off their to-do lists to be ready for the Sunday, Feb. 2 Super Bowl battle between the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs.
But few Utah families are more excited to catch the game than the Bartons, whose Brighton High graduates have made it big in the sports world. And in professional football, there isn’t a bigger stage than Super Bowl LIV, which is expected to draw more than 90 million television viewers.
Some 100 of Kansas City offensive tackle Jackson Barton’s biggest fans will gather at his parents’ Sandy home to cheer for a big Chiefs win. Among the crowd of fans will be his siblings, including his brother, Cody, who plays for the Seattle Seahawks, and his wife and toddler son, Cohen.
Of course, they are hoping that Jackson, who was drafted in the seventh round by the Indianapolis Colts, will find some playing time for the Chiefs. The team picked him up in mid-November when star Martinas Rankin was put on injured reserve. Jackson Barton became a recruiting prospect by other NFL teams after the Colts cut him from the active roster but continued to use his talents on their practice squad.
“I never thought I would see one of my kids in the Super Bowl,” says mom Mikki Barton, a fixture in the Brighton High cheering section while her boys Jackson and Cody and daughter Dani dominated the competition in several sports. “It was more of a, ‘Ooh, that would be cool’ thought. It wasn’t until last year, when (Jackson and Cody) went into the draft. We thought, ‘OK, this is next level.’”
While the family traditionally plans a Super Bowl party, complete with smoked meat and other traditional snacks and sides, this year’s gridiron contest at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., is obviously far more exciting — and personal — for the athletic clan. Jackson’s playing time is not guaranteed – but the family hopes he’ll get some time on the field during the big game.
Mikki says she’s spoken with her son, the former University of Utah Ute, every day that he’s been in the Sunshine State to prepare for the match-up. He regales her with tales about the drum-beat of electrifying publicity surrounding the game, which will include a star-studded half-time show featuring Jennifer Lopez and Shakira, and the National Anthem by pop singer Demi Lovato.
“He says it is amazing,” Mikki Barton said. “He says they treat him really well, and the hype is incredible.” The public-relations blitz of the teams extended to a Barton mention this week on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” during which the host, in his Super Bowl Superlatives comedic bit, showed the 6-foot 7-inch, 302-pound player’s photo with the caption “Most Likely to Be All Five Guys from Five Guys.”
“That was a complete surprise to him,” she says, adding that she received several texts from folks who saw Fallon’s poke at Jackson’s size. “(Jackson) was the first to send it to me. I wish I would have seen it live.”
When Jackson calls to chat about the events of the day, she says, he often asks, “What are you doing tonight?”
“I say, ‘Trust me, nothing as interesting as you,’” she said.
But Jackson Barton isn’t Canyons District’s sole tie to this year’s Super Bowl. Former U. teammate Alex Whittingham, the son of Ute coach Kyle Whittingham, is in his second year as an assistant on the coaching staff. They didn’t play together while Bengals, but both got their starts wearing blue and orange.
If the Chiefs win — as the odds-makers are predicting — it would give Coach Andy Reid something that’s eluded him the length of his career: A ring. If the Chiefs win, Mikki Barton is not counting on receiving the gift of a ring from her son. “Oh, no, I just hope that he allows me to hold it,” she laughs.
Win or lose, Mikki Barton looks forward to having all of her kids back together after the season ends.
“I am excited for the Super Bowl, but I am excited for him to come home,” she said. “At the same time, I seriously have to say, ‘We have a kid out there.’ It is so hard to believe. We are very grateful that he’s been given this opportunity.”