Skip to main content

Cottonwood Heights Journal

Brighton alumnus Lander Barton named PAC-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year

Jan 31, 2023 03:39PM ● By Jerry Christensen

Lander Barton at Brighton High. (Photo Brighton High)

Lander Barton gave Brighton Football four highlight-filled years at Freestone Field. On both sides of the ball he set school records. Taking his talents to the PAC-12 at the University of Utah, he continues the highlight reel at Rice-Eccles Stadium. In December 2022, Barton not only played a key role against No. 4 USC to win the PAC-12 championship, he was named PAC-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year. 

Graduating Brighton in 2022, he was already up at the U of U for spring ball during Brighton's third trimester. “When you consider that he should still be in high school right now, it's pretty amazing what he's doing, but it's no surprise. He has all the tools,” said Ute coach Kyle Whittingham after the first look at spring camp. He was a four-star recruit rated the No. 2 recruit in the state of Utah and the No. 17 linebacker nationally. 

He is the son of Mikki and Paul Barton, who were both two-sport athletes at Utah. Paul played football and baseball at Utah. Mikki is a member of the Utah Crimson Club Hall of Fame and was a two-time All-American in basketball. His two brothers, Cody and Jackson (also named after towns in Wyoming), played for Brighton and Utah. Cody was an all-Pac-12 linebacker at Utah from 2015-19 and is currently playing for the Seattle Seahawks after being drafted in 2019. Jackson earned all-Pac-12 as an offensive lineman at Utah from 2014-18 and is playing for the Las Vegas Raiders. Lander’s sister, Dani, was a two-sport athlete in volleyball and basketball leading Brighton to its latest girls basketball state championship. Dani also played volleyball for the U of U and is the all-time leader in career kills, sets played, matches played and attempts for Utah Volleyball as a four-time All-American from 2017-21.

When he was a student-athlete, Lander took Brighton by storm. A few of his highlights:
• High School All-American, invited to the All-American Bowl as a senior. 
• Two-time all-state first team selection.
• Two-time all-region first-team, also earning Region 6 MVP in 2020.
• Named MaxPreps Player of the Game 13 times at Brighton.
• Recorded 122 total tackles (8.0 sacks) with two interceptions his senior year.
• Had 139 tackles (12.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks) as a junior.
• Racked up 104 total tackles as a sophomore (11.0 TFL, 1.5 sacks).
• Recorded six interceptions at Brighton, three returned for touchdowns.
• Played wide receiver as well, recording 909 yards on 81 catches, scoring 16 receiving touchdowns in high school.
• Also played basketball, averaging 19.0 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.3 steals per game as a junior to earn second-team all-state.

Contrast that body of work over four years at Brighton to his freshman year at the University of Utah:

• Appeared in all 14 Ute games with three starts.
• College Football News Freshman All-America Second Team.
• PAC-12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year.
• Led freshmen on the team in tackles (46), TFL (8.0) and sacks (4.5).
• Also forced a fumble, made one recovery, broke up a pass and logged three QB hurries.
• Eight games with four or more tackles, including a career-best six in the PAC-12 Championship versus No. 4 USC.
• Contributed a career-best 3.0 TFL and a sack during the Rose Bowl Game versus No. 11 Penn State.
• Made a 10-yard sack at Colorado, highlighting a four-tackle outing.

Whittingham said, "When we recruited him, we felt like we knew exactly what we were getting. He's 6-4 and 230 pounds and runs really well."