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Football: Top recruit James dies in Florida

Observer Staff Report | Friday, April 2, 2010

Irish offensive tackle recruit Matt James died Friday after falling from a balcony in Panama City, Fla., where he was on Spring Break, various media outlets reported.

According to Panama City’s WJHG TV, the fall occurred just before 6:30 p.m. Friday, and James died almost instantly. He was 17 years old.

“The Notre Dame football program is in a state of disbelief and incredible
sadness with the news of this tragic event,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said in a statement released Saturday. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Matt James in this most trying of times.”

James, an offensive tackle at St. Xavier in Cincinnati, committed to play for Brian Kelly and Notre Dame in February, choosing the Irish over offers from Ohio State, Alabama, LSU and close to a dozen others.

The 6-foot-7, 291-pound James made his decision to sign with Notre Dame on National Signing Day. In the days beforehand, he narrowed his choice down to the Irish and Ohio State.

“On a personal level, I got to know Matt quite well over the past few years
and he was a wonderful young man from a great family. 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,” Kelly said. “My prayers and deepest condolences go out to the James family as well as the St. Xavier High School and Cincinnati communities.”

USA Today named James a first-team All-America in the fall. He also earned The Anthony Munoz Offensive Lineman of the Year award.

James protected quarterback Luke Massa at St. Xavier. Massa also committed to Notre Dame, and will play for the Irish in the fall.