Any visitor to the empty halls and classrooms of New Town Elementary on Tuesday morning didn't have to spend long wondering where everyone had gone.
Screams emanated from the gym at the Owings Mills school, where a roiling sea of purple - dotted with cameras galore and some "Wacco for Flacco" signs - eagerly awaited Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco.
"You guys are louder than 70,000," Flacco told the crowd of about 750 cheering kids.
The quarterback visited New Town, as well as the Chatsworth School in Reisterstown, as a prize for children who won a local CBS radio contest, "Bring Joe Flacco to Your School." The winners were drawn from 8,000 entries, senior vice president Bob Philips said. Students had the chance to come up with questions to ask the NFL player.
New Town fifth-grader Iman Linton text-messaged in to enter the contest after her teacher, Christine Cave, told her class about it. A few weeks later, she learned she had won - much to her classmates' initial disbelief. The news had her jumping on her bed, she said Tuesday.
"I wanted to meet Joe Flacco because I never had met a football player except for my cousin," who plays in college, the 10-year-old said Tuesday. Iman, who had drawn a purple "5" on her face, sported a brand-new Flacco jersey for the occasion, which soon had the quarterback's signature.
She more than got her wish Tuesday, posing several times with the quarterback on the stage at her school, while her vocal and animated peers looked on. Her younger brother, Isaiah Paterson, also got into the pictures, despite the fact that he was wearing Dallas Cowboy quarterback Tony Romo's jersey - an act that Flacco said "took a lot of guts" in Ravens country.
The quarterback seemed surprised at the kids' unbridled enthusiasm, though he took it in stride.
"It's a lot of fun," he said of the visits. "I know when I was their age, it would have been a lot of fun for me to see someone I look up to."
He told the students his elementary days were "some of my greatest memories."
"But you've got to remember that the most important thing is to go home, do your schoolwork, listen to your teachers while you're here - and when you go home, you've got to listen to your parents the same way," he said. "Being here today, it all started back when I was you guys' age. ... That goes for the rest of my teammates."
Among the students' questions: Who's your hero? How did the things you learned in elementary school help you prepare for your job? How does football keep you strong?
"When I'm not playing football Sundays, I get pretty bored," said Flacco, who said his father was one of his heroes. "When I don't have that, it's kind of tough to get by."
He said the lessons he learned in primary grades still serve him now, such as being a respectful person and putting in hard work.
"We were very excited that one of our students won," said Beth Strauss, New Town's principal. "I really think the adults had trouble containing themselves even more than the kids.
"My ears probably will never be the same," Strauss added, smiling.