(VIDEO) Top Notre Dame Recruit Matt James 17 Dies After Fall From Hotel Balcony on Spring Break…PHOTOS

Notre Dame recruit Matt James dead after falling from hotel balcony

Notre Dame recruit Matt James dead after falling from hotel balcony
St. Xavier standout was in Florida for spring break

By Tom Ramstetter
April 2, 2010

PANAMA CITY, Fla. – St. Xavier offensive lineman Matt James, one of the nation’s most sought-after football recruits, died Friday in a fall from a hotel balcony on a Gulf of Mexico beach while on spring break.

James, 17, died almost instantly after falling from a third-floor balcony at about 6:25 p.m. at the Days Inn on Front Beach Road, according to police reports cited by WJHG-TV in Panama City.

Luke Massa, St. Xavier’s senior quarterback last fall and a fellow Notre Dame recruit, was with James in Florida.

“Luke is devastated,” Massa’s father, Gary, said late Friday. “He lost one of his best friends.”

Added Massa of James: “This kid was a great kid, I can tell you that.”

Word of the incident spread quickly throughout the St. Xavier community as classmates and football fans mourned James, a 6-foot-6, 291-pound All-American.

When reached for comment Friday night by Blue & Gold.com, St. Xavier football coach Steve Specht said, “I just can’t do this right now.”

A Facebook group called “RIP Matt James” had more than 2,500 members as of 1 a.m. Saturday, and an outpouring of prayers and affection for James and his family filled the page’s “wall.”

In Florida, Panama City Beach police are continuing to investigate details of the incident.

“The best that we know is Matt fell,” Gary Massa said.

Word of James’ death spread so fast, friends had already arranged an impromptu vigil and started gathering at the school by 10 p.m. In the next hour, at least 75 cars had arrived. Candles lined the entrance to the football field, where the lights were turned on. Students, along with the school’s choir director, stood with candles in their hands.

A prayer service, set for 9 a.m. Saturday morning at St. X’s chapel, was announced during Friday’s vigil. All Bomber football players, past and present, were asked to attend. It was unclear whether the event would be open to the public.

Kyle Bedinghaus, a classmate and friend of Matt, was one of the organizers of the vigil. He said just Wednesday, before Matt left for Panama City, his friends told him to be safe and not to do anything to mess up his scholarship.

“It’s hard to believe it happened,” the 18-year-old senior said. “You hear it happens all the time, but when it’s someone you know, it’s scary.”

Several students at the vigil described James as a gentle giant who was down-to-earth and nice to those around him.

Notre Dame recruit Matt James dead after falling from hotel balcony

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