Notre Dame Recruit "Drunk" Before Fatal Fall: Cops - NBC Chicago

Notre Dame Recruit "Drunk" Before Fatal Fall: Cops

Police call spring break death "a tragic accident."



    Notre Dame Recruit "Drunk" Before Fatal Fall: Cops

    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.

    "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."

    "The Notre Dame football program is in a state of disbelief and incredible sadness with the news of this tragic event," Kelly said in a statement.

    Kelly and his staff recruited James to go to Cincinnati, where Kelly coached the past three years. James followed him to Notre Dame when Kelly was hired in December, choosing the Fighting Irish over Ohio State.

    "Matt was an extremely talented person who was very bright and possessed a great dry sense of humor," Kelly said. "He could not wait to join the Notre Dame family."

    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.

    About 40 students from St. Xavier and a half-dozen parents were on the trip to Florida, police said.

    Funeral arrangements were pending.