Iowa City, Iowa — Nine-year-old Maddox Smith can no longer play football, not after being treated for a golf ball-sized brain tumor and a rare genetic disorder that caused tumors to grow on his nerve cells.

Maddox has spent many, many days in the hospital. Like dozens of other children slogging through long weeks of recovery, he also has been part of college football’s newest and most heartwarming tradition.

“The Wave” has become a national sensation, with nearly everyone in 70,585-seat Kinnick Stadium turning to wave to the pediatric patients watching from University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital — a 12-story building that sits right across the street — at the end of the first quarter. The gesture was born through a combination of limited space, social media and the “Kid Captain” initiative, a partnership with the Iowa football program designed to highlight the youngsters fighting so bravely nearby.

“We were looking for ways to do something special,” said Cheryl Hodgson, the communications director for the hospital. “It’s so interesting to us to see how ‘The Wave’ has captivated everybody.”

The Hawkeyes honored Maddox before a recent game through the “Kid Captain” program. He got a jersey, tickets, a standing ovation at midfield and, most importantly, a welcome distraction after years spent fighting for his life.

“It’s just a way to give back, to make them feel part of this family that we have every Saturday,” said his father, Michael Smith. “I think it’s great for the whole country to see this.”

Extra points

Former Michigan football player Nate Johnson reached a plea deal with prosecutors to resolve a domestic assault case.

Johnson pleaded guilty Wednesday to a misdemeanor charge of assault and battery. He was originally charged with domestic assault. Johnson is free on bond ahead of sentencing Dec. 1.

... Police say Eastern Washington quarterback Gage Gubrud was intoxicated and cursed at Cheney, Washington, Police Department officers at a crime scene last weekend.

The Spokesman-Review says Gubrud and linebacker Kurt Calhoun were arrested and jailed for obstruction following the incident.

Both were suspended for Saturday’s game at North Dakota.