17-year-old Notre Dame football recruit Matt James died in a fall from a hotel balcony while on vacation in Panama City, Florida, the Cinncinati Inquirer is reporting.
James, one of the most sought after recruits in the country, died “almost instantly” in the fall at a Days Inn on Front Beach road, just a week ahead of his 18th birthday. The offensive lineman was reportedly on spring break when the accident occurred at around 6:25pm on Friday.
News of the tragedy spread quickly at St. Xavier High School, and BlueandGold.com reached James’ coach for comment on the incident:
When contacted Friday night, St. Xavier coach Steve Specht was with the James family and said he needed some time before he spoke about a player he called “perfect.”
“I just can’t do this right now,” Specht understandably said.
However, Specht spoke to Blue & Gold Illustrated recently about James’ future in football:
In an interview last month for Blue & Gold Illustrated, Specht said the potential was limitless, given the strides James made only in high school.
“Matthew was the biggest freshman that ever walked through the doors at St. Xavier High School, but we didn’t know if he would ever play a down,” Specht said. “We were hoping that by his senior year, he would grow into his body because he was just so clumsy. It didn’t take as long as we expected. He became a three-year starter for us. He’s come a long way.”
An “impromptu vigil” of grieving students gathered at the school this evening, and a prayer service is scheduled for tomorrow morning at 9am.