Daniel Santa Cruz, the Phil Womble Ethics in Sports Award recipient from Dos Pueblos, is joined by, from left: award sponsor Dave Pintard, DP lacrosse coach Lucas Martinez and football coach Doug Caines. (Rocco Constantino photo)

“Upstanding” was one of the words Dos Pueblos football coach Doug Caines used in defining the character of his junior linebacker and DP’s Phil Womble Ethics in Sports Award recipient Daniel Santa Cruz.

Santa Cruz was presented the award at Monday’s Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table press luncheon.

Said Caines: “Daniel is one of the true, young up-standers, and he will stand up for something he sees that needs to be addressed. He is an up-stander and I think this world is a lot more served with more up-standers like Daniel Santa Cruz.”

On the athletic field, Santa Cruz led the DP football team in tackles, was the team’s defensive MVP and earned all-Channel League second-team honors. He is a key member of the varsity lacrosse team.

In the classroom, he carries a 3.3 grade point. On campus he is an officer in the DP Athletic Club and will be serving in DP Leadership as a senior.

He also makes a difference at home.

“He holds a job in the community to help fund financials at home,” said award sponsor and presenter Dave Pintard. “He’s quite a young man.”

Accountable, respect, positive attitude, reliable, sportsmanship were other words Caines cited in explaining why Santa Cruz was so deserving of the award.

On his accountability: “We often talk about the difference between a man and a boy. A man will do the right thing even when no one’s watching, and the boy has to have someone watch him. That’s our job as leaders: to teach (the student atheltes) how to do that when I’m not watching them. He’s far surpassed that expectation already as a junior.”

On respect, Caines said Santa Cruz is the first junior in his 14-year football coaching career to be voted team captain by his peers.

“It just speaks volumes to who he is and the respect of his teammates, and that wasn’t through politicking of votes. It wasn’t a popularity contest, the kids truly believed that he was a leader of the team based on what he did on the practice field, in the weight room and on the field. And it showed with that selection.”

On his positive attitude:  “He truly inspires, he has the respect of his teammates and he does that with a positive attitude,” Caines said. “He is not a robot. He has personality, he’s engaging and the kids respect that positivity. They understand his positive energy is infectious.”

On his reliability: Santa Cruz plays midfielder on the lacrosse team in the spring and also has early morning weightlifting with the football team. He never skips out on either activity. 

“It just speaks to the reliability, he knows that he’s the leader of this team,” Caines said. “I just know the reliability of this young man is his unsurmountable attendance to everything and that’s kind of a prime example of his reliability.”

On sportsmanship: “He doesn’t let his team cut corners,” said Caines. “He understands that part of this is making sure that we are all in this for the right reasons. And that sportsmanship comes out, not just in that capacity, but in the way he plays — he plays the game clean, he plays it tough, he plays it physical, but he plays it right and it shows. And it’s just part of why I think he’s an amazing recipient for this award.”

Lacrosse coach Lucas Martinez wasn’t sure at the beginning of the season if Santa Cruz would play lacrosse because of his commitments to his family and football.

“It was devastating to me as a coach to think that we might not have a guy of his leadership ability, his positive attitude, his work ethic and his lacrosse ability, and his motor coming out,” said Martinez. “But he ended up making it work, and I knew that decision for him was was tough. When he made that decision, he was all in. He was making the decision to do all of those things and do them at an exceptionally high level.”

In accepting the award, Santa Cruz thanked his family, his teachers, coaches and teammates for helping him get through each day.

“Even when I’m trying to keep people in check, it’s hard to keep myself in check at the same time,” he said. “I’ve got great teammates keeping myself in check as well.”

— Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at bpunzal@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.