NILES - ''Woof, woof, woof!'' barked teens lining the hallways of Niles Middle School as Debra Darnall, aka the ''Bone Lady," high-fived them and soaked up the sheer excitement of her visit.
The middle school band filled the hallways with music as she walked hallways.
Teachers and students alike wore brown and orange clothing, Cleveland Browns jerseys and a variety of jerseys from other Cleveland sports teams.
Debra Darnall, also known as the ‘‘Bone Lady’’ for her rabid support of the Cleveland Browns at their games since they returned in 1999, speaks before a class at Niles Middle School on Wednesday as part of a ESPN ‘‘30 for 30’’ documentary film to be broadcast sometime in 2014.
Before she entered the building, a few students wearing black and gold Pittsburgh Steelers took them off and stuffed them into their pockets.
Clad in an orange dress covered with bones, buttons and footballs, and wearing a Marge Simpson-type wig covered with more Cleveland Browns memorabilia, she told a classroom about her journey from simply being a fan of the Cleveland Browns to becoming one of its biggest and most visible supporters.
Darnall spoke to eighth-graders at Niles Middle School as part of a planned ESPN ''30 for 30'' documentary scheduled to be released sometime in 2014. It focuses on the hard luck of Cleveland fans who have not seen a championship team since 1964 - 50 years ago next year - when the Browns won one of the last pre-Super Bowl NFL championship.
"I'm hoping to see the Browns in the Super Bowl," Darnall said during her talk.
Darnall said her road to becoming the Bone Lady began when former owner Art Model took the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore in 1995.
"I vowed I would not look at another NFL game, not even the Super Bowl, until the Browns returned," she said. "It was in the spring of 1999 that I began dressing like this.''
She also painted her car like a Cleveland Browns helmet, and built a large dog bone and attached it to the vehicle."
When she stopped at a restaurant while going to a pre-season game, she found a note on her car from Fox TV saying they wanted to film her.
"When I arrived, there was a pep rally happening downtown," she said. "They grabbed me and threw me up on stage. It was really fun."
Then there was picture of her on the front page of the Plain Dealer. Her story was picked up by CNN and shown over and over again. She was later invited to be interviewed by Kirk Herbstreit, the former Ohio State University quarterback who became a football analyst for ESPN, when the Browns won their first game.
"I was petrified," she said. "A friend told her to think about the questions I may be asked and have answers for them. It is advice I still follow."
Darnall emphasized to the eighth-graders that she never planned on being ''The Bone Lady.''
"I just continued doing this because I was having the best time ever," she said.
She went to the Super Bowl with ''Big Dawg'' - the guy who wears a dog mask in the ''Dawg Pound'' at Cleveland Browns Stadium - and about a year later, she was honored by the National Football Leagues' Hall of Fame as one of the NFL's ultimate fans.
Darnall's loyalty is tempered by realism of the team's current status.
When asked by a student who is her favorite player on the current roosters, Darnall paused and told the audience they probably are not going to like her answer.
"There is no one on the current roster that I could do without," Darnall said with a smile. The team has few real NFL-level stars on it.
However, she said, she does like current coach Rob Chudzinski, a Toledo native and a lifelong Browns fan.
Kristopher Belman, an Akron native now based in Los Angeles, said he wanted to do something about Cleveland sports and the fan experience. He was asked by ESPN if he wanted to do something for its ''30 for 30'' films.
ESPN's ''30 for 30'' is an Emmy award-winning sports documentary series started in 2009. Last week, it aired a documentary on the relationship between former Youngstown State University and Ohio State University football coach Jim Tressel and star OSU and former Warren G. Harding High School running back Maurice Clarett.
"Cleveland has some of the most loyal fans in the world and I wanted to do something from their perspective," Belman said. "We have not won a championship in 50 years and yet the fans are there supporting the Browns, the Indians and the Cavaliers. The fan loyalty and the crowds are always unwavering"
"It is about all the things that are really great about sports," Belman said. "Even without a championship, there are so many things about sports that we can celebrate. It brings people together. It gives people hope and it gives a distraction when we need it."
Belman said the love of sports is a generational thing that often is passed on from fathers to sons and fathers to daughters.
"It is okay to be a fan in northeast Ohio," he said.
David Lee Morgan Jr., an educator and author, helped to bring ESPN and The Bone Lady to Niles Middle School.
Niles was one of several schools that they considered shooting a portion of the film. It was a letter from one of the students, Mindy McGann, that convinced the film's producers film a portion of Darnall's scenes at the middle school.
They had decided to film it at another school, but Mindy said she wanted to send them a letter asking them to reconsider Niles Middle School. "Who could resist a kid in a wheelchair?" she quipped.
Mindy was right.
During her presentation, Darnall said she learned that meeting people who are different from herself presents opportunities to learn new things.
"I realized, when I was at the Hall of Fame that I had a responsibility to learn everything I could about the Cleveland Browns," she said. "I wanted to represent women in a very positive light. I took the honor very seriously.
"I learned, back in 2002 while talking to Sports Illustrated reporters, that almost half of the NFL fans were female and the average age were 45 years old and older," she said.
Darnall said when a person is doing what they love to do, doors will open allowing them to follow their dreams.
"I had a lot of offers to do things," she said. "I listened to my gut to what to do and what not to do. If I did not listen to that voice in my head that told me to paint my truck and make my dog lady costume, my life would be significantly different than it is today.''
She learned not to judge people by the way they look when two scruffy looking guys walked up to her and asked if she owned the car with the bone on it.
"Well, look at me," she said, dressed in her Bone Lady outfit.
The guys said they were from HBO's ''Inside the NFL'' and wanted to film her.
"I will always remember that day," she said. "I learned to live in the moment."
Hayley Ketthum, 13, says Darnall's presentation was inspiring.
"She taught me to be OK with who I am," Ketthum said. "I also learned not to judge people and allow them to be who they are."
Luke Swauger, 14, described the morning as a great experience.
"It was a good message that she passed on to us," he said. "She was kind of funny. She's definitely a die-hard fan of the Browns."
Allison Clark, 14, called the speech inspiring.
"She showed that people should not be afraid of being themselves and not afraid to think outside of the box," Clark said.
McKenzie Price, 13, was excited to meet the Bone Lady.
"When I saw her, I thought, 'She's crazy," Price said. "She taught us to have gratitude and not to be afraid of who we are."