In this April 2017 file photo, University of Maine softball player Alyssa Derrick throws a ball during a practice in Orono. The Rhode Island native, who gained attention with a viral video of her throwing a football 60 yards, has signed to play professional football. Credit: Ashley L. Conti | BDN

Alyssa Derrick gained unexpected attention in May 2017 when she showed off her throwing arm by launching a football approximately 60 yards in a parking lot.

A video of the throw by the University of Maine softball player was posted on Twitter and eventually went viral after it was reposted by Barstool Sports. Derrick, who was then a sophomore, duplicated the feat twice more.

Her efforts left a lasting impression.

Beginning in March, she will be throwing a lot of footballs. And getting paid to do it.

This summer, Derrick was contacted by Myles Wilder, the owner of the Houston Stampede of the Women’s Football League Association. She wound up signing a letter of intent to play for the Stampede beginning in March.

She will eventually sign a contract with the team and will get paid to play football.

“I thought it was a prank. I didn’t think it was the real deal until I did my research about it,” Derrick said. “It’s so crazy. It’s like a dream. I still pinch myself [to see if I’m going to] wake up.”

Since signing, the 22-year-old Derrick has immersed herself in what she termed “football grad school.”

The 6-foot-3 Rhode Island native, a power-hitting third baseman who shares UMaine softball’s single-season home run record (15) with Sara Jewett, has been working with Coventry High School [Rhode Island] quarterbacks coach Sean Carroll.

Derrick was a three-sports standout at Coventry [soccer, basketball, softball], but has never played football other than flag football or two-hand touch.

She works as a personal trainer and, having interned with the UMaine football team, she has catered her individual workouts to develop the muscles she will need for football, primarily the upper body. She hopes to add 20 pounds to her 170-pound frame.

Derrick also has spent a lot of time watching game tape to learn the specifics of football.

“It’s a real challenge but it is so much fun. I can’t explain how much fun it is,” said Derrick. “I love learning something new.”

She will have to adapt to the physicality of the sport but isn’t concerned about it.

“I’m not worried about the physical challenge. I’ll get to hit the other girls as well. It’s head-to-head competition and I’m excited about it,” Derrick said.

She admits being nervous about learning the ins and outs of the game.

“I’m going to work my butt off. I have come so far in the last month,” she said.

Derrick has been throwing to the Coventry High receivers on Saturdays with Carroll and also is working with its quarterbacks, including all-stater Will Turner.

The lifelong New England Patriots fan said football is a much more complicated game than she had realized, but that just fuels her enthusiasm.

Derrick must work on throwing technique and understanding receivers’ routes and defensive tendencies.

“It is such a mental game but that’s what I love,” she said.

Tom Brady led the Patriots to six Super Bowl titles but it is New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees who has caught her attention.

“His mechanics are amazing to watch,” Derrick said.

She said she is willing to listen to any advice, and has received a ton of it.

“It was overwhelming at first. I got so many emails and phone calls,” she said.

She chose Carroll as her coach because he’s serious about helping transform her into a top-notch quarterback.

“We clicked right away. He’s very positive,” Derrick said.

Carroll said her progress has been exponential.

“After her first two sessions, she had gotten as far as I can take a beginning quarterback in half a season,” he said. “Every time we work, she gets infinitely better.”

Carroll said Derrick has a unique set of skills that will enable her to be a successful quarterback at any level. He admires her intense desire to be the best.

She wants to learn how offenses and defenses work and will embrace taking a leadership role.

“It is very exciting to coach an athlete who has this much passion for the game. It has energized me,” Carroll said.

He said her height will give her a big advantage because she will be able to comfortably see over her offensive line and find her receivers.

He added that she is very coachable and can take constructive criticism.

“If she can stay healthy and if she is surrounded by a good team and a good staff, she could be legendary in that league,” Carroll said. “She has the opportunity to blow the doors open for this sport and to create opportunities for an entire segment of athletes who hadn’t had those opportunities before.”

The WFLA is a 32-team league and each team plays a 10-game schedule leading up to the playoffs.

Their training camp starts in March and games begin in May.

“I want it to be March so bad,” Derrick said. “I want to win another ring like when we won the America East [softball] championship [in 2016]. That was the best experience of my life.”

UMaine softball coach Mike Coutts said Derrick has what it takes to be successful in her new venture.

“She has had to be a battler her whole life. She has the arm strength. The biggest challenge will be learning and understanding the nuances of the game but she has embraced it and is very serious about it,” he said.