CINCINNATI (AP) — A “drunk and belligerent” 17-year-old Notre Dame football recruit was killed in a fall from a fifth-floor hotel balcony during his senior-year spring break in Florida, authorities said Saturday.
Matt James died Friday around 6:30 p.m. at the Days Inn Motel in Panama City Beach. He was dead when police arrived.
“It appears to be a tragic accident,” Panama City Beach police Maj. David Humphreys said.
James’ former teammates at St. Xavier High School gathered for a private prayer service in the school’s chapel on Saturday. The All-State lineman had been the first top signing for new Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly.
Police did not use James’ name during a news conference. Instead, they referred to him as a 17-year-old from Ohio who had signed with Notre Dame.
“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.”
Humphreys said the railing at the hotel met the standards for proper height. He said police would be interested in pursuing charges if it was learned who provided the underage teen with alcohol.
The 6-foot-6, 290-pound offensive lineman was an all-city and all-state football player. He also was on St. Xavier’s varsity basketball team.
Students at St. Xavier gathered on the football field Friday night to remember James following reports of his death, school Mark Motz said.
Motz said the impromptu vigil was organized as word of James’ death spread through social-networking sites such as Facebook.
“When one of their own is in trouble, they band together,” Motz said.
About 40 students from St. Xavier and a half-dozen parents were on the trip to Florida, police said.