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Old April 3rd, 2010, 10:19 AM
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Default ND recruit dies in spring break accident

Standout lineman James fell from a third-floor hotel balcony

Matt James turned down his home-state Ohio State Buckeyes to sign with Notre Dame.

Offensive lineman Matt James, one of the top prospects in new Notre Dame coach Brain Kelly's first recruiting class, died Friday night in Panama City, Fla., after falling from a third-floor hotel balcony, several media outlets reported.

James, who was won one week shy of his 18th birthday, was vacationing in Florida for spring break.

The 6-foot-6, 291-pound offensive tackle from Cincinnati's St. Xavier High School had chosen Notre Dame over home-state power Ohio State.

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, told the Cincinnati Enquirer late Friday. “He lost one of his best friends.”

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

Police are continuing to investigate details of the incident.

“The best that we know is Matt fell,” Gary Massa told the Enquirer.

A spokesman for St. Xavier said Saturday that students gathered on the football field Friday night to remember James. School spokesman Mark Motz says the school is “devastated” by the news.

St. Xavier choir director Karl Thomsen said Matt was a good student and “a giant teddy bear.”

“He’s been our brother for four years," Kyle Bedinghaus, a classmate and friend of Matt told the paper. "To lose him so close to graduation is just a shame. He had so much potential.”

James, earned USA Today first-team All-America honors last season. As a sophomore, he was a member of the Bombers’ state championship team. He had scholarship offers from the likes of Alabama, Tennessee, LSU, Florida State and North Carolina.

James signed with Brian Kelly’s Fighting Irish on Feb. 3 after also strongly considering Ohio State.

“It was a really tough decision,” James said at the time. “...I like the situation of being in the first class with Coach (Brian) Kelly there.”

NBC Sports.com

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Big T

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