Competitive is the word best used to describe University of Utah volleyball freshman Dani Barton, according to her big brothers, Jackson and Cody Barton, current members of the Utah football team. On the other hand, her mom, Mikki, said she is a person who is peaceful and pleasant to be around. With all the attributes that make up the new Ute, she is ready to show off as she begins her first year representing Utah as a student-athlete.
“Dani always has that competitive spirit,” Mikki said. “[She] always has that sparkle in her eyes when it comes to anything with competition. She doesn’t back down.”
The desire to succeed drives Dani, but it almost didn’t land her at Utah. Dani, whose real love is sand volleyball and wants to one day play in the Olympics, was convinced during her sophomore year of high school that she wanted to go play at USC on a sand volleyball scholarship — a sport that wasn’t offered at Utah until this past year. Cody believes the rival Pac-12 school was on her radar because she wanted to be different.
“The fact both my parents came here, me and my brother are here, her breaking the trend in our family might be something she wanted to do, because she likes to be different,” Cody said. “But at the same time, and in the end, the bond with her family won. She wanted to keep on the Barton name.”
The Barton name is a familiar one within the Utah athletics program. Their dad, Paul, and Mikki both played sports at Utah. Paul played baseball and football, and Mikki played basketball and volleyball for the Utes.
“I’ve been coming to the camps since I could basically pass a ball,” Dani said. “I’ve known coach Beth [Launiere] basically my whole life growing up, and my parents have always been major Ute fans, obviously, since they both went here. Growing up, I went to all the games: football games, basketball games and volleyball games. So I’ve just been a huge Ute fan, and I’ve always just imagined myself playing here.”
Mikki recalls the day when Dani decided that she was going to attend Utah. Mikki’s friend gave her the advice to let Dani visit the campus by herself again, get to know the coaches more and the new assistant who had recently been hired. Dani came home and decided that she was going to be a Ute, just like the rest of her family.
“Mom, I’m gonna come to the U,” Mikki recalled of her conversation with Dani. “I think it’s really important that I am around family, and that I’m here and this is a legacy that we’re making at this school. This is a big deal, and I want to be a part of that and stay close to my family.”
The bond between the Barton siblings, who have a little brother still at home, is something that can’t be broken. Dani feels like she made the best choice to be at the same school as her brothers, even if they do get on her nerves.
“She’s a mom to them,” Mikki said. “She looks at them quite a bit and gets frustrated at the way they behave. She’s always kind of telling them how they should be, so it’s kind of nice because I have a little bit of an ally with her, but then at the same time she’s the first one to be there when I’m mad at them, telling them that it’s okay.”
With Dani’s competitive characteristic, she plans to be the most decorated athlete in her family when her time with the Utes is over. But for now, as new seasons for each of the Barton siblings get underway and as Dani begins a new chapter in her career, she knows her brothers will always be her number one fans.
“My favorite thing is Dani is the kind of person you can go to if you need someone to talk to. She’ll just listen to you,” Jackson said. “As siblings, we grew up close to one another, we were always giving each other the ear — typical sibling things — but at the same time, we always had each other’s back.”