WINNIPEG - The long snapper rarely gets attention, let alone the backup long snapper.
John Surla, however, has provided plenty of good TV already, even though he’s just a first-year pro trying to make the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
The University of Western Ontario linebacker agreed to be the subject of a CFL documentary that would chronicle his journey through the league’s evaluation camp and draft, part of training camp and his first pre-season game.
Considering he didn’t normally test well and had enough to worry about leading up to the evaluation camp, Surla decided to let the cameras into his life.
“I was scared because it could’ve been a distraction,” Surla said Saturday. “I knew going into the combine I don’t test very well, so it’s kind of embarrassing letting everyone know my numbers and stuff.”
He talked it over with his parents, who told him to give it a shot.
“They mean a lot to me in my life, and they’re big on life experiences, and this was one of those things,” he said. “Having everything that I’ve done in the past four or five months documented is something to look back on and think about and enjoy.”
The first part of “CFL Road to the Show: John Surla” is already online at cfl.ca. The 12-minute piece is a behind-the-scenes look at Surla’s evaluation camp in Toronto, including a somewhat awkward meeting with the Toronto Argonauts brass.
The second instalment is scheduled to be released on Monday, June 27, when it will be known whether or not Surla cracked the Winnipeg roster. It will no doubt include the gut-wrenching events of May 8, when Surla, who was expected to be picked in the CFL draft, failed to hear his name called.
“It’s pretty moving, because he doesn’t get picked and he has a huge gathering of friends and family at his house,” said Jaime Stein, the CFL’s director of digital media and co-executive producer of the documentary.
Much to everyone’s relief, Surla’s agent called a few minutes after the draft ended to let him know the Bombers were interested in signing him as a free agent. Two days later, he had a contract with the Blue and Gold.
Now, thanks to a calf injury to No. 1 long snapper Chris Cvetkovic that will keep him out for about a week, Surla is on top of the depth chart at that position. He had a few snaps in Thursday’s 27-15 loss to Montreal, and the CFL crew was there to document everything.
“The Bombers gave us locker-room and sideline access,” Stein said.
Surla will get even more playing time on Thursday when the Bombers host the Toronto Argonauts in their pre-season finale.
“I’ve been given an opportunity, and it’s my shot to show the coaches that I deserve to be on the field, I deserve to be on the roster and I deserve to be part of this organization,” he said.
No matter how it ends, Surla’s story, which has had more downs than ups, makes for great TV.
“It really does,” he said, “and hopefully at the end of the day, if things work out here, then it makes for a great story as well — an underdog that no one thought could do it is maybe doing it.”