EDITOR’S NOTE: To help celebrate Waxahachie ISD athletes who are following the R.E.A.L. Leader philosophy brought in by Indians head football coach Jon Kitna and adopted by athletic director Greg Reed, Waxahachie athletic coaches have picked top athletes who exhibit the ability to Reject passivity, Empathize with others, Accept responsibility and Lead courageously.

A R.E.A.L. Leader Q&A will appear in each week’s Daily Light Friday sports section, allowing coaches from all sports to share and brag about their stand-up athletes. This week, Edward De La Cruz, the Waxahachie High School boys cross country coach, named junior Brandon Gilliland, an two-year Waxahachie resident, the R.E.A.L. Leader of the week for his dedication to his teammates and ability to positively affect his peers.

"My dad has always believed in me and pushed me to be the best I can be in everything I do," Gilliland said.

He said he views his father as an example of a good man because he respects everyone and works harder than anyone he knows.

Coach, you recognized this athlete was a REAL leader for the week. What did this leader do that stood out to you and what made you choose him as a REAL leader?

De La Cruz: He worked hard in the classroom and improved tremendously. He worked hard at be a great leader by leading by example and trained year around to prove what hard work can do.

How does the he live the four pillars of manhood / womanhood, a.k.a. R.E.A.L (Reject passivity, Empathize with others, Accept responsibility and Leads courageously)?

De La Cruz: He continues to show the team what it takes to be the best by giving it 100% in everything he does and leading by example. He has really worked hard this year to empathize with others and lead the team with true character.

The R.E.A.L. Leaders philosophy is based on the idea it takes a village to change a culture. How does this he promote a positive culture inside the locker room and in the community and encourage his or her peers to do the same?

De La Cruz: He is always kind to other runners and teams at the races. He takes charge in putting activities together, bringing the team together to make sure they are prepared mentally and physically. He also continues to work every day to lead the team to future successes.

In adulthood, accountability is a key component. How does this player best personify that value to promote success in the classroom, in sporting events and in life?

De La Cruz: He is making As and Bs while running every morning at 6 a.m. He always runs at the level that is expected and works hard to be a better person every day.

What is one characteristic that this player believes every leader should possess?

De La Cruz: Brandon believes that the one characteristic that a leader should possess is the ability to stay true to your word and back them up with your actions.

What has been the impact of the player’s attitude on the team's success?

De La Cruz: Everyone sees how hard he works, how he does everything he is told. It makes them want to work harder.