A TRUSTED ALLY
PAUL LANCASTER IS THE COACH WHO DEVELOPS PLAYERS OFF THE FIELD
BY VAUGHN JOHNSON
30 PHILADELPHIA EAGLES GAMEDAY MAGAZINE On his very first day as a Philadelphia Eagle
at the NovaCare Complex, J.J. Arcega-
Whiteside sat down with Paul Lancaster
and felt an immediate sense of comfort.
Arcega-Whiteside felt so comfortable that
he nearly fell asleep on the brown leather
couch in Lancaster’s office down the hall
from the players’ locker room. Lancaster
took no offense to Arcega-Whiteside nearly
dozing off. In fact, he expected it.
“As soon as everybody sits down on that
couch, they fall asleep,” Lancaster told
Arcega-Whiteside. “If you want to take a
nap, go ahead.”
To be fair, the rookie receiver had good
reason to be a little sleepy. He was merely
hours removed from being selected in
the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft,
which was followed by a sudden trip to
Philadelphia, where coaches and frontoffice
staff greeted him with dozens of
handshakes and hugs.
Lancaster understood this. His main
concern was that Arcega-Whiteside was
at ease, as that is one of the many aspects
of his job as the Eagles’ director of player
development. Between the Eagles and
Buffalo Bills, Lancaster has spent nearly
two decades in the role. Where coaches
develop players on the field, Lancaster
develops them in a variety of ways off it.
Rookies are required to participate in the
program, but Lancaster’s door is open to
players of all experience levels.
At its core, Lancaster and his program
provide four things to players:
For Eagles players, having all of that at
their disposal is crucial, and it has earned
Lancaster universal respect amongst them.
“What he does is unmatched,” says
linebacker Nigel Bradham, who has had
a relationship with Lancaster dating back
to his rookie season in Buffalo back in
2012. “He’s extremely good at his job. He
understands the players.”
At first glance, Lancaster is an imposing
figure, standing at a towering 6 feet, 6
inches tall. Depending on the time of
the year, he may also sport a bushy, saltand
pepper beard that only adds to
his daunting aesthetic. His personality,
however, couldn’t differ more.
He may talk down to a majority of the
players in a literal sense, but he doesn’t in
a figurative one. Right off the bat, he wants
to establish a genuine relationship with a
player. Forging a personal relationship with
the players is vital, according to Lancaster. If
he doesn’t know the players on a personal
level, how can he help them?
“For me, above and beyond anything else,
you have to start working with the players
and the key to that is understanding that
they’re people,” Lancaster says.
“Once you start to do that, you start to
build a rapport with people. That’s
basic. Once you do that, then you start
This is easier said than done, especially
considering the age difference between
Lancaster and the players. When Lancaster
first held the role in Buffalo back in 2001,
he was the same age as most of the veteran
players. But as time has marched on, the
dynamic has changed, and Lancaster has
gone from what he called the “cool uncle”
to more of a father figure.
Despite that, Lancaster still manages to
relate to players who are, in most cases,
the same age as his 21-year-old twin sons,
PJ and Hunter. Lancaster uses his sons, as
well as his nieces and nephews, as valuable
resources of information.
“They let me know who Lil Uzi Vert was
before he was mainstream,” he says.
But the comfort goes well beyond being
familiar with knowing the latest DaBaby
track. It also goes into helping the players
in matters away from the field. The money
and attention that come with being a
professional football player are great, but
the reality of life can still affect a player as
much any normal person. With a bachelor’s
degree in psychology and a master’s in
counseling from California University of
Pennsylvania, Lancaster is a valuable person
to turn to when those tough times arise.
“I think he gives you the comfort and the
confidence as well to be able to come in
his office at any time, call his phone at any
time, and just have a conversation or talk