SPORTS
06/02/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Matt James Dead: Notre Dame Football Recruit Dies In Fall From Balcony In Panama City, Florida

Matt James, a 17-year-old football player who had signed to play for Notre Dame, died Friday after falling from the third floor balcony of a hotel in Panama City, Florida.

Cincinnati TV station WKRC was the first to identify James in reports after his death. The offensive lineman was just one week away from celebrating his 18th birthday.

According to the South Bend Tribune, Brian Kelly, Notre Dame's new head football coach, planned on James being a "big part" of the team's turnaround.

Panama City's WJHG reports that James, who stood 6' 6'' and weighed 291 lbs., apparently died instantly after falling from a balcony at a Days Inn motel Friday evening. It was the teenager's first day of spring break vacation in Panama City.

James' death is the second spring break death in Panama City in less than a week. On Wednesday, a 19-year-old died after falling five stories from a motel balcony.

James was a senior at Saint Xavier High School in Cincinnati. Saint Xavier quarterback Luke Massa was with James when he died, according to Cincinnati.com. Massa's father said his sone is "devastated" and "lost one of his best friends."

Almost 3,000 people have joined the Facebook group "R.I.P. Matt James."

WATCH: Fox19 in Cincinnati reports James' death