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Notre Dame Recruit Matt James Dies After Falling From Third Story Balcony

April 4, 2010 – By Scott

The future looked bright for St. Xavier senior Matt James.  He was on spring break in Panama City, FL, this past week enjoying his final high school days with about 40 fellow seniors.  James, considered one of the best lineman coming out of high school this year, had committed to Notre Dame and was looking forward to a promising career with the Fighting Irish. Tragically, James died on Friday in Panama City after falling from a third floor balcony while on vacation.

“We would like to thank everyone for their prayers and support during this tragic time, particularly the family at St. X,” Jerry and Peggy James said. “Matt was a very special young man, and it is gratifying to us that you all could see that as well. We are touched by this outpouring of love.”

According to Panama City Beach police Maj. David Humphreys, James was intoxicated at the time of the fall which took place at the Days Inn Motel.  He stated that the railing of the balcony met the standards for proper height and that he would welcome pursuing charges if they could find out who provided James with alcohol.

“Witnesses and friends indicate he had become drunk and belligerent,” Humphreys said. “He had leaned over the balcony rail, was shaking his finger at the people in the next room over. He fell over.”

James, an all-state offensive lineman, was considered the first big-time recruit for Notre Dame and new head coach Brian Kelly.  James’ original plans were to attend the University of Cincinnati where Kelly coached the previous three seasons, but he reconsidered after a visit to Notre Dame, choosing the Irish over Cincinnati and Ohio State.  Kelly was obviously devastated after learning of the tragic accident.

“The Notre Dame football program is in a state of disbelief and incredible sadness with the news of this tragic event,” Kelly said in a statement. “Matt was an extremely talented person who was very bright and possessed a great dry sense of humor. He could not wait to join the Notre Dame family.”

St. Xavier quarterback, Luke Massa, also committed to play football at Notre Dame.  Luke’s father, Gary, said that the 6-foot-6, 290 pound James and his son had “big dreams together” in regards to their future in college.

“One of the visions I have in my mind is after football games at St. X he was like the Pied Piper. All the little kids, everybody’s little brothers and sisters would follow him around,” Gary Massa said. “He was just a gentle giant, that’s the best way to describe him.”

College Football sportsbooks have Notre Dame’s odds to winning the BCS National Title in 2011 set at 70/1.

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